November 19, 2010

Crawford is a standout defensive back

Mariner head coach Chris Siner first took notice of South Fort Myers standout Dallas Crawford when the 5-10, 185-pounder started at quarterback, as a freshman. Three years later, Crawford is still starring for the Wolfpack, but now on both sides of the ball …

"He has a great feel for the game and has always had that," said Siner, whose Mariner team fell 50-7 to Fort South Myers Nov. 4. "Even when he was a freshman and I coached against him, he had that 'it' factor. You knew he'd be special then and he's turned out to be.

"He's what makes them go on both sides of the ball. He's a terrific quarterback but he won't play that at Michigan and I think he's a better defensive player anyway.

"He can cover one-on-one. They play him at free safety and he's an eraser back there for anyone that makes a mistake. He can hit like a truck too."

The Florida state playoffs begin tonight and Crawford will lead his team, undefeated at 9-0, into a matchup with 8-2 Collier. This season, the three-star, ranked the No. 23 cornerback nationally and the No. 60 player in the state of Florida, has completed 78 of 104 attempts (75.0 percent) for 1,464 yards with 17 touchdowns and a single interception.

Defensively, he has tallied 46 tackles and eight interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.

"The thing his interception total proves, especially for a guy that offenses are trying to avoid, is that he's a playmaker," Siner said. "He tracks the football extremely well and when it's up in the air, if he can get his head turned around because that's often the most difficult transition for a safety moving to corner, he'll find a way to make a play on the ball.

"He's physical too. He won't be one of those cornerbacks that sees a ball carrier coming his way and will find a way to get blocked. He's going to throw his blocker off of him and come up and lay a hit on the running back because he loves to tackle."

U-M will employ Crawford as a cornerback, but he's been a terrific safety in high school and that is always a position he could return to. In four seasons - mostly three since he barely played defensively as a freshman - the future Wolverine has notched 21 interceptions, returning five for touchdowns. He's also made 144 tackles during his four seasons.

"He's very smart back there," said Riverdale coach Rob Hinson, whose team fell 39-3 to Fort South Myers Oct. 29. "From the film we watched, we never saw anyone run the post or the deep seam and you'd think he'd get caught out of position once or twice because he's responsible for filling the alley in run support, but he has tremendous instincts and diagnoses run or pass so quickly that he doesn't get beat deep and he rarely allows a ball carrier to get going without putting his helmet into him.

"It's really impressive to watch him read and react so quickly because he's 10-12 yards off the line of scrimmage and by the time the running back hits the hole Dallas is there waiting for him, usually with a head of steam behind him."

Michigan has no use for Crawford at quarterback but he could always be an option there if attrition becomes an issue. In his four-year career with South Fort Myers, he has completed 416 of 692 attempts (60.1 percent) for 7,587 yards with 74 touchdowns and only 16 interceptions. He has also rushed for 960 yards and 19 scores on 317 carries (3.0 yards per rush).

"In years past, you could force him to make a few mistakes by applying pressure and making him one-dimensional because he'd take off and run," Hinson said. "But this year, he took a real step in maturity as a quarterback because when his pocket collapsed he found a way to escape pressure and still make a throw down field.

"He can still scramble, and he'll do that occasionally, but he has this knack for eluding a sack, rolling away from the pressure, keeping his eyes on his receivers and finding that guy that is suddenly a little more open because his defender is starting to cheat on the run."

Perhaps the best part about Crawford, though, has little to do with the kind of talent he is on the field.

"I'm close to their head coach and when I've asked him about Crawford, he just raves and raves," Siner said. "He's been leading that team for four years and even when he was a freshman he just sort of had that aura about him where the rest of the team took their cues from the way he played.

"He's always been a class act when we've gone against him and he's bouncing around the sidelines with a smile on his face. You never want to get beat but if you're going to get beat you'd rather get beat by a kid like that, that loves the game, is passionate and shows great sportsmanship."

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