Great football players come in all shapes and sizes. Incoming freshman Shaun Crawford will likely prove that. The diminutive cornerback comes to South Bend looking to make a big impact.
But for as impressive as Crawford looks to be coming in, at one time the a 5-foot-9 cover man didn’t seem destined for Notre Dame. He didn’t fit into Bob Diaco’s plans when he was still coordinating the Irish defense. But Brian VanGorder’s takeover led to an immediate offer to Crawford. And an early Michigan commitment didn’t last through the summer before Crawford flipped to the Irish.
A versatile playmaker who could also have an impact on special teams, let’s take a look at the Ohio native.
5’9″, 170 lbs.
Freshman, No. 14, DB
Under Armour All-American. Four-star prospect. No. 84 overall player by Rivals. Ohio State champion. First-team All-State. Offers from Florida State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Miami and several others.
Crawford’s another “grow 2.5 inches and he’s a five-star” prospect. He actually got pretty close to that ranking at 5-foot-9.
As we try and get into the heads of Notre Dame’s evolving recruiting priorities, something Brian Kelly said months ago gives you an idea as to why this staff coveted Crawford the way that they did. Kelly mentioned the importance of slot cornerbacks and in his growing friendship with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Kelly talked about the importance of not just lock-down cover men, but corners who can defend inside receivers. That’s pretty much Crawford to a tee, so much so that I think he might be playing from Day One in the slot against Texas.
From there, Crawford’s career likely grows once KeiVarae Russell departs. There’s just too much talent for him not to see the field as a freshman, and I think he’s one of the true impact players in a recruiting class that’s going to end up being a very, very good one.
Greg Bryant’s reported four-game suspension likely opens a door for Crawford to get a shot at returning punts for the Irish in addition to battling for snaps in nickel and dime coverage packages.
Crawford’s instincts are part of what makes him such a dynamic football player. While physically there’s not much he’s going to be able to do about getting matched up with a 6-4 receiver, Crawford could also be part of the solution at safety, especially if something goes wrong with Plan A and Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate.
Throwing too much on the shoulders of a freshman defensive back is never wise. But it would be smart to give Crawford a specific assignment—like the Irish did with Elijah Shumate during the 2012 title run—and let him go to work.
THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB