High School Football

Palmetto's Cory Crawford makes lasting impression at tailback, will stay put

PALMETTO -- A busy Cory Crawford is a happy Cory Crawford.

It doesn't matter if he's lining up under center, running a route or bursting out of the backfield.

As long as he's on the field and helping out, the Palmetto senior sounds fine with however the coaches choose to use him.

"It's just wherever the team needs me. That's how I am," Crawford said.

Good thing, too, because Crawford has done a bit of everything during his days as a Tiger.

He was Palmetto's quarterback during the first half of the 2010 season while Melvin Burston nursed an ankle injury and helped the Tigers make the Class 4A playoffs.

Last year brought a return to his natural position, wide receiver, and Crawford hauled in 38 catches for a Tigers team that made the state final four for the first time in 25 years.

For the first three games this season, Crawford has been the team's top running back while Josh Hicks sat out with an ankle injury. All Crawford has done is lead the area in rushing with 518 yards while Palmetto has shot to a 3-0 start and the No. 1 ranking in Class 5A.

As a result, running back is where he'll stay. When the Tigers open Class 5A-District 10 tonight at home against Arcadia DeSoto, Crawford will start at tailback and Hicks will shift to cornerback.

Though Crawford said he doesn't have a favorite position, the switch could help him, and Palmetto, in the long run.

"I know a lot of coaches are looking for taller receivers down here," said

Crawford, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and has received offers from Cincinnati, USF, UCF, Toledo and Western Kentucky. "Not saying my height will stop me, but a lot of big schools like Florida and all of them, they came out here and they were looking at me and they said I didn't really have the height. But I was talking to (Palmetto) Coach (Dave) Marino the other day, and he was telling me that, 'Now they'll probably recruit you at running back.'"

He may have found a permanent home now, but Crawford said he's been moving all over the football field since his Pop Warner days, lining up at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, cornerback and safety.

He also returned kicks, too.

"He's one of the most athletic kids I've ever been around," Marino said. "Obviously, (Southeast star) Peter Warrick was pretty (darn) athletic, and we did the same thing with Peter. Peter was a wide receiver and then his senior year we moved him to quarterback, and he played some tailback.

"When you have a superior athlete like that, that can change direction and move so smoothly, you can apply that skill set anywhere."

Crawford's ability to switch positions won't just help Palmetto score points. It will help beef up a defense that lost eight starters to graduation while not sacrificing any of the Tigers' prolific offense.

"I feel good about it," Crawford said. "(Hicks) talked to Coach Marino last Saturday and told him, 'Why change something that isn't broken?'"

So now Palmetto gets to put the speedy Hicks in the defensive backfield while putting an athletic, Division I-type player in his place.

Crawford will not be moving around as frequently as he has in the past, but he's doing what matters the most, helping make the Tigers better.

"Just to be out here on the team with a whole bunch of great guys," Crawford said. "That's the thing, really, just to be able to play on a team."

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