Shawn Crawford could be a decoy.
It's convenient to have one of the fastest men in America in your backfield in August. It gives Marshall a little more to think about.
"It would not surprise me to see any of those three (Crawford, Bernard
Rambert and Chad Jasmin) at tailback," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden.
Bowden is impressed by Crawford's speed. Who wouldn't be? He won the 200-meter dash at the NCAA indoor track meet with a time of 20.69.
But isn't Clemson defensive coordinator Reggie Herring taking this a
little too far?
"I think if the kid makes a commitment to this football team, he's got a
chance to be a super-explosive football player," said Herring, setting
everyone up for the sucker punch. "He's got speed and if the kid's got
enough of a commitment, he's got the ability that he could be making a
million dollars in the NFL."
Crawford has a handful of carries under his belt since he left Indian
Land High School four years ago. All of them came last week in practice.
No scouts are calling yet.
Marshall might be expanding its game plan, though.
Crawford is ready whatever his assignment.
"I wanted to be a running back in the beginning," said Crawford, who
practiced at receiver during the spring. "But one day at practice he
called me over there and gave me a try at running back. I've been there
Herring noticed him immediately.
"Where normally we can close a hole down if it develops, he gets through
there real fast," said Herring. "It doesn't take a brain surgeon to say
that the guy is fast."
Crawford broke off a couple of long runs in Friday's practice. Bowden
said it's simple with Crawford: hand him the ball and watch him run.
"He's got the two things you need at running back - speed and
toughness," said Bowden. "It's hard to drop the ball when it's handed to
Still, there's the question of how a 5-11, 185-pound sprinter is going
to react when he's hit by a 250-pund linebacker.
"They hit harder here than they do in high school," said Crawford. "You
also get tired quicker. But like coach says -- it's all mental. Just get
it out of your mind. You can make it through it."
Crawford rushed for just over 500 yards during his senior year at Indian
Land (a class A school near Rock Hill). He switched to fullback midway
through his senior year and also put in time at linebacker and
cornerback during high school.
That was four years ago. In between he's been burning up the track. He's
more familiar with his time running 100 (10.12) or 200 meters than he is
40 yards, although he thinks he remembers running a 4.3 40-yard dash.
"He's got toothpick legs," said Bowden, who is also looking at Terry
Witherspoon and Vince Circiu at tailback, just in case.
Crawford is ready, whether it's as a decoy or as the real thing.
"I'm trying to relax when I'm off the field right now," he said. "I try
to keep my mind off it because when I get on the football field, my mind
has to be there one hundred percent."