rebels football:

With eligibility issues almost fixed, Dre Crawford could help upgrade the UNLV defense

The senior safety from Miami is a big-time talent, but has one year remaining after not qualifying last year

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Steve Marcus

Defensive back Dre Crawford is shown during practice at Rebel Park Monday, March 12, 2012.

Highlights of UNLV safety Dre Crawford

UNLV's Dre Crawford

Defensive back Dre Crawford gets ready for  practice at Rebel Field Monday, March 12, 2012. Launch slideshow »

How many games will the UNLV football team win in 2012

How many games will the UNLV football team win in 2012?
3-4 — 38.8%
5-6 — 25.4%
1-2 — 19.2%
7 or more to be bowl eligible — 12.9%
0 — 3.7%

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Dre Crawford admits he was frustrated.

Crawford, a 6-foot, 185-pound rising senior safety on the UNLV football team, failed to qualify last fall after transferring from Arizona Western College, and spent the entire season practicing with the scout team.

Since the Miami native had already used his redshirt year while on the junior college ranks, sitting out last year meant losing a season of eligibility altogether. It left a big-time chip on his shoulder for the upcoming season, knowing he has one year to showcase his talents on the Division I level.

UNLV opened its 15-workout spring practice Monday at Rebel Park, giving Crawford a chance to practice for potentially playing in the fall. He said he is taking 18 credits this semester and is on schedule to be cleared academically.

“This is my last go-around. I have to bring everything I got,” Crawford said. “I have been waiting to play Division I football my whole life.”

For a UNLV defense that surrendered 40 points a game last year, having someone with the ability of Crawford in the secondary instantly makes the Rebels more competitive. Crawford, a three-star prospect by Rivals.com out of high school, had 66 tackles as a sophomore in 2010 at Arizona Western with four interceptions.

He classifies himself as a ballhawk, someone always near the football for a pass breakup or interception. A high school linebacker, he takes pride in stopping the run and making the big hit. (Check out the video linked in this story.)

While feeling frustrated at times, Crawford said the year on the scout team was beneficial in helping him understand the game. The scout team runs the plays of the opposing team, giving Crawford more than his share of looks at different formations and strategies.

Crawford feels his dedication to watching film and being prepared mentally will add another dimension to his game. Previously, he was able to excel because of his athletic ability.

“He is working hard at it, so hopefully that means good things,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “It’s humbling for a guy who came in expecting to play and wound up on the scout team.”

Crawford originally signed as a midyear transfer in December 2010 to Minnesota out of Arizona Western, but one of his credits didn’t transfer and they released him. His junior college coaches put him in contact with UNLV, ending a journey to reach Division I football that included commitments to a pair of four-year schools and being on two junior college rosters.

Out of South Miami High, Crawford said he originally verbally committed to Mississippi — where his brother, safety Frank Crawford, will be a sophomore in the fall. He went to Kilgore Junior College in Texas, but opted to use his redshirt year before transferring to Arizona Western.

After two years at Arizona Western and one season running the scout team at UNLV, Crawford realizes his window for making an impact is small. Ironically, UNLV opens its 13-game schedule in late August against Minnesota, a team Crawford should be playing for.

“I can’t even explain how hungry I am,” Crawford said. “We have the Gophers (Minnesota) in the first game. That is motivation right there.”

Spring practice won’t give much of a gauge of who will play at certain positions and it’s tough to speculate about a player still waiting for a final approval on his grades. But, for one late afternoon, Crawford was in his comfort zone on the football field.

And, early indications point to him being able to impact the program.

“He is hungry. That is what having a season away really gives guys,” Hauck said. “He certainly looked sharp tonight, but you take that with a grain of salt because it’s a no-pads day. We are excited about him. He is working hard in the classroom and that is obviously paramount for him.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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