2016 Recruiting: Kekoa Crawford

Submitted by Brian on July 5th, 2016 at 12:18 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CBLavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson.

       
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA – 6'2", 185
       

1553675

Scout 4*, #134 overall
#23 WR
Rivals 4*, #129 overall
#26 WR, #20 CA
ESPN 4*, #179 overall
#22 WR, #20 CA
24/7 4*, #135 overall
#20 WR, #15 CA
Other Suitors UO, USC, ND, OU, Stanford, ASU
YMRMFSPA Jehu Chesson
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Army AA. Nee Dylan Crawford.

Film

Junior:

Senior (starts at 1:00):

Way back in the long-long ago when Brady Hoke was still around, Michigan fans with an obsessive recruiting bent were hoping that Michigan would land a quartet of California stars: KJ Costello, Theo Howard, David Long, and Dylan Crawford. By the standards of recruiting expectations more than a year out from Signing Day, this actually turned out pretty well: Michigan locked down the latter two. Getting there was pretty hairy, with Long committing to Stanford early and Crawford looking like he'd head to Oregon for a couple weeks after the Ducks finally offered.

But before Crawford could pull the trigger on that Duck offer, though, a guy named Eddie McDoom did. Crawford committed to Michigan shortly afterwards; now Michigan has both. Jedd Fisch probably spent most of February with tented fingers, laughing ominously in his underground compound.

Crawford isn't a whole lot different than Johnson and McDoom. Most evaluations cite an advanced understanding of routes, excellent athleticism without crazy top-end speed, and technical adeptness. The term "polished" is frequently deployed. In October Michigan was apparently selling him on their lack of depth at slot receiver, which both McDoom and Johnson are also candidates to play. All three are also candidates on the outside.

Crawford has a few inches on his compatriots and is the most likely to be a full-time outside guy; all three can move inside or out depending on Michigan's need on any particular down.  ESPN:

very competitive speed and slippery elusiveness…  very shifty with wiggle and fluid change-of-direction to use at the top of stems into and out of breaks. … can get on the toes of defenders quickly to eat up cushion … knows how to use his feet, hips and burst to gain separation. …very adept at tracking the deep ball over the shoulder …reasonably wide catch radius …can make people miss, … may not just run by people [in college] like he routinely does at this level. … athletic and precise and has a good feel for the game.

247:

electric in and out of breaks. …quickness to separate …brings a lot to the table after the catch as an elusive player with good moves. …aggressive mentality as a blocker. He really takes pride in picking up a block… great toughness. … Kenny Stills type

Rivals:

…strong route runner where he cuts extraordinarily well and he does a great job setting up cornerbacks. The four-star is also exceptional at catching low passes by getting his hands under the ball and scooping it. Sometimes, he lets the ball get into his body, but most of the time Crawford rips it out of the air.

Scout:

…does everything well. …solid frame and is much stronger than he looks. …nice burst, is a polished route runner and has good top end speed. … natural pass catcher and always uses his hands rather than his body to make a play. He's also a smart kid and knows the game.

Son of a Coach:

very good speed and flashes some extra burst at times that a lot of other players don’t have. …  plays really hard. …  good hands and shows good body control on sideline catches. I would like to see him be more of a player that attacks the ball at its highest point … very good potential as a route runner and does a good job of selling double moves. Because he’s a better athlete than many of the players covering him, he sometimes will rely on just running by them and not running the crispest routes. 

Tim Sullivan:

…a good route-runner with outstanding hands… good short-area quickness …isn't a deep burner… his football savvy, vision, and quickness allow him to make big plays anyway.

Touch The Banner:

…does a good job of bursting off the line of scrimmage….can shake defenders in space. … deft route runner who does a good job of using head movement and jab steps to set up defensive backs. … shows the ability to work across the middle of the field without being affected by impending contact. … does not have many obvious weaknesses in his game.

While last bit is a theme repeated by a few different evaluations, there are some negative reports.

A couple of grumbles about his hands seem to be based on a bad camp or day of practice; more complete evaluations are generally positive. There are a more durable concerns. He didn't blow people away at the Army game. This Rivals evaluation from the game is skeptical about Crawford's ability to be a deep threat:

247 moved him out of their top 100 because he "never really asserted himself" in 7-on-7 and in a separate section actually intended to praise him they noted that he was just "going through the motions" on the first two days of practice. Scout also noted he "wasn't active" in the morning of day one, though they said he did well in the afternoon section. Touch The Banner also notes that Crawford wasn't the most productive receiver on his team; 2017 Oklahoma commit Grant Calcaterra, who Michigan took a poke at early in the cycle, beat him out.

Like Johnson, Crawford's combine testing numbers are pretty righteous. He was one of the top performers at the Opening:

Dylan Crawford was one of 10 participants out of the 166 who tested to qualify for NIKE Football Rating Championship. At 6-1.5, 183 pounds, the athlete clocked a 4.45-40, 4.01 in the shuttle, jumped 37” in the vertical and threw the power ball 42’.

Crawford was just out of a walking boot and ran for the first time in a month when he put that on the board. FWIW, 247 had completely different numbers—worse 40, worse shuttle, better vertical and power ball—but either way, dude was one of the most athletic guys at a gathering of the top recruits in the country. He came in second in combine testing at a loaded Opening regional in Los Angeles as well; he'd win the WR MVP award after bringing in "numerous" deep balls that displayed "his ability to stretch the field." How this jibes with the consistent "he's fast but he's not that fast" above is unknown.

That 6'1.5" is also a positive. It's a rare recruit who ends up listed smaller than he actually is by the recruiting sites. Crawford is one of them. He grew a couple inches after he popped up on everyone's radar.

Crawford's ability as a blocker jumps out on tape. There was a brief mention above; it was echoed in more depth by other analysts. Son Of A Coach:

One of the most tenacious run blockers I’ve seen out of a someone considered a blue chip receiver prospect. He gets after it better than a lot of tight end recruits.

Touch The Banner:

Crawford displays some aggression toward defensive backs in the running game, and he can be a very effective blocker on the edge with crack blocks and stalk blocks.

Rivals took in one of his high school games—which is a rare opportunity to focus on guys when they don't get the ball—and came away similarly impressed:

not only willing to block, but also fiery when it came to the task. He said afterward he realizes receivers have to be well rounded at the next level and he has worked hard at making his presence felt even when the ball isn't in the air.

Our YMRMFSPA has proven that you don't have to be a huge guy to wreck tight ends, and you know that Harbaugh is going to prioritize guys who block with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. This section also mitigates concerns you might have after those indifferent Army game reports that Crawford doesn't get after it. Crawford might not have put a huge priority on a slightly ridiculous All Star game; when he's put in an actual game he seeks to dominate his opposition.

Etc.:  Per Jedd Fisch, Crawford will go by his middle name at M. MGoBlue is still a little confused about this. Will wear #1. This scouting report from a guy covering the Army game is too ridiculous to put in the body of the post but also too ridiculous to ignore:

“As spicy as they come at the wide receiver position,” Herron said. “A guy who’s not one of these Calvin Johnson-types, he’s not, 230-40 pounds. He’s just over 6-foot, 180 but plays as though he’s the size of Megatron.”

Why Jehu Chesson? Chesson arrived as a wiry track star in need of a lot of polish who lacked recruiting hype. This isn't particularly close to Crawford, but the receiver Chesson turned into—a 6'3", 200-pound outside receiver and defensive back abattoir with the ability to stretch a ten yard pass into 30—is. Chesson has an inch or two on Crawford; Crawford arrives at Michigan much closer to his eventual ceiling.

Less recent comparables include Marcus Knight and Tai Streets, both lanky outside receivers with solid deep speed and reliable hands.

Guru Reliability: Exacting. Lock-step rankings, Army game appearance, heavily scouted high school. Some wobble in the scouting reports but not much really.

Variance: Low. A polished kid with a good frame and excellent off-field stuff.

Ceiling: High-minus. Doesn't appear to be Braylon but could be a solid #1 WR in college if he works out. I do give the sites' (slight) skepticism in this department credence since they saw him a lot and there seems to be broad agreement on this point.

General Excitement Level: High. Johnson/McDoom part III. Less likely to bust than either of those guys because of his size. Still like McDoom a bit better but it's splitting hairs.

Projection: Probably plays on the outside. Probably does not redshirt since Michigan needs to find two new outside receivers next year and there's enough uncertainty about Ways and Harris—more or less the only options with any experience—to play both Crawford and McDoom. I'd prefer at least one of the three WRs already profiled gets a redshirt, but it's hard to pick out who that might be.

Crawford will have a real shot at starting as early as next year; if his blocking translates to college that'll give him a leg up. At the very least he should be rotation piece. Things might get complicated in 2018 if Michigan does lock down Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins, either or both of whom could be the kind of talent who pushes through returning starters after an apprentice year. Crawford's ability to pop into the slot gives him the flexibility to stay on the field; it's likely that one of these slot/outside types does get pushed out of playing time. No idea who.

Comments

1VaBlue1

July 5th, 2016 at 12:40 PM ^

The receivers and TE's that Harbaugh is compiling offer soo much to the offense!  Seriously, he could combine RR's version of the read-option with Meyer's RPO, and still mix in his own inside power.  All from the same formation!  It looks like the college game is a toy to experiment with for him - experimentation he couldn't do in the NFL because he could only acquire so many players.

julesh

July 5th, 2016 at 12:45 PM ^

This post had me so confused until I remembered the name change thing. Maybe the note about going by his middle name should be at the top?

Jeff09

July 5th, 2016 at 12:59 PM ^

If we can add one or both of Nico Collins and DPJ to this group of slot-types we might surprise some people on offense in 2017, especially if we can plug the holes in the O line. If Brandon Peters is ready then, this offense could be a nightmare to defend.

Trader Jack

July 5th, 2016 at 2:20 PM ^

If Brandon Peters is starting in 2017, that will mean both O'Korn and Speight struggled in 2016 and the season probably didn't go as well as we're hoping it will right now. I'm a big fan of Peters and think he'll be great at some point, but if whoever starts in 2016 does well they're not getting displaced the next year by a redshirt freshman.

socalwolverine1

July 5th, 2016 at 3:11 PM ^

Not only does this kid have the physical tools to play as a freshman, but he comes out of a big time sports high school (along with Klay Thompson, Carson Palmer, etc.), where he has received top-notch coaching and has competed against the best D-1 players in Southern California.  Looking forward to seeing what this kid can do!

Joby

July 5th, 2016 at 3:45 PM ^

Brian, "né" is correct, as "née" is the feminine form (it's a tiny nit to pick, but I don't want St. Juste to see this and decommit over it).

Sopwith

July 5th, 2016 at 7:06 PM ^

and hopefully whoever the kid playing DB on the play starting at 3:24 is the state 100m sprint champ or something, because that kid closed on Kekoa's breakaway in a hurry.

YoOoBoMoLloRoHo

July 5th, 2016 at 9:32 PM ^

There are so many guys in this class that bring the the skills and competitiveness to play this fall. Crawford seems like a guy who is nearly college-ready and you must believe JH can find comparable recruits over the next couple of years - so you might as well play him. Beyond Chesson and Darboh, the WR crew is just ok.

I see a lot of Steve Smith in Crawford. Very solid WR who makes plays when it really matters. Just enough explosiveness and a gamer. He won't put much fear in the D, but he can help UM win a lot of games.

Richard75

July 6th, 2016 at 5:51 PM ^

Steve Smith in his prime was incredibly explosive. He got behind the D better than anyone this side of Randy Moss.

Part of the reason Smith was able to play so long (like Joey Galloway) was that, when he lost a step, he was still faster than most, since he was so fast to begin with.

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