By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Sports Writer
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Corn Elder came to Miami as a running back and a point guard.
These days, he’s neither.
And it’s working out just fine.
Elder is one of only three players at the FBS level this season to have returned both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown. The punt return, few probably remember. The kickoff return, his was the last part of the eight-lateral, hotly debated one that lifted Miami to a 30-27 win over Duke last Saturday.
"He’s a phenomenal person," Miami interim coach Larry Scott said. "Like I’ve always been taught and has always been said to me, if you show me a good player, I’ll show you a better person. That’s what Corn is — he’s a really good person first. So those characteristics come out and come through in everything that he does. That’s why he always finds himself in those positions to make those plays."
Elder’s first return of the season saw him taking a punt back 72 yards for a score against Bethune-Cookman. He had an interception in overtime to help Miami beat Nebraska in a game where the Hurricanes escaped despite wasting a late 23-point lead. Then Saturday, he went 91 yards after the last of those laterals and gave Miami its almost-unbelievable win over Duke.
How many times has he watched it?
"Maybe 100," Elder said, grinning.
The Atlantic Coast Conference said Sunday that the touchdown shouldn’t have happened, ruling that a Miami player’s knee was down on one of those laterals. A panel of reporters who cover the ACC, in voting results revealed the next day, gave Elder one of the league’s player of the week awards anyway.
"He’s a tremendous athlete," Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya said. "He can make shots, dunk, all that stuff. He’s a crazy athlete, just gifted. Blessed."
Oddly enough, Elder — one of the best high school football and basketball players in Tennessee before enrolling at Miami, and someone who helped his teams win multiple state titles — was targeted as a cornerback because of what he showed Hurricane coaches on the basketball floor during the recruiting process. The lateral quickness needed to defend at point guard translates well to the skills needed to play cornerback.
His success isn’t a surprise to Miami basketball coach Jim Larranaga. Elder tried being a two-sport athlete for the Hurricanes, but the schedule demands were ultimately too much.
"I wish he was doing it for our basketball team," Larranaga said. "We need some help at the point guard position. … You can see what he’s done in football and the impact he’s had there."
Elder said he misses basketball, but doesn’t regret choosing one sport over the other. But it seems like he made the right call, in that he’s now the first Miami player with a kickoff return TD, punt return TD and an interception in the same season since longtime NFL star Devin Hester did it for the Hurricanes in 2004.
As an added plus, he cemented a spot in Hurricane lore with that game-winning return against Duke.
"It was a very emotional win," Elder said.
NOTES: Kaaya (concussion) returned to practice on Tuesday, saying he still has more tests to complete before he can be cleared to play Saturday when Miami (5-3, 2-2 ACC) hosts to Virginia (3-5, 2-2). Backup QB Malik Rosier (undisclosed soreness) also practiced Tuesday, but the Hurricanes are listing both as questionable for now. If neither Kaaya nor Rosier can play, Miami would turn to either Vincent Testaverde or Evan Shirreffs, who flip-flopped last week for the next spot on the depth chart. … Kaaya said he watched Saturday’s game with teammates who were either injured or not on the travel roster. His reaction to the finish: "Some guys ran outside, screaming. Kids were trick-or-treating out on the street and looking at us weird. It was a great feeling."
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