Shaun Crawford, listed at 5'9, 165ish, committed to Michigan this past Friday after a delay that left....not so many people in suspense. He becomes the fifth commit for Michigan in the 2015 class and the third 247 Composite Top 100 player. Crawford's commitment also serves as a sort of regional landmark; here's why- Since Rivals started listing the precise dates of verbal commitments (dating back to 2004), Michigan has never started off a class with five commitments coming from a state OTHER THAN Michigan. This is another telling sign that this class might have the least amount of in-state kids since...well who knows. Most classes the past few years have average around 5-6 in state kids. If the rumblings about Mikey Weber being inclined to head elsewhere, the only 2 in-staters Michigan's gunning for right now are Joshua Alabi and Brian Cole.
Anyway, back to Crawford. Shaun has a pretty impressive offer sheet for a 2015 kid, including; Miami (YTM), Florida State, Penn State, Tennessee, Michigan State, and TERRIFYING RECRUITING MACHINE Northwestern. Miami was probably the primary contender here. Although he also liked Notre Dame, he never received an offer, and apparently didn't like them enough to wait around for one. As I mentioned in the header, this commitment was not much of a surprise.
When you're looking just at measurables, you might be wondering what the hype surrounding this kid is all about. He'll be one of the shortest CBs on the roster once he gets on campus, he needs to gain some weight, and he doesn't even claim a super ridiculous 40. Well, like a lot of recent early Michigan commits that placed in the top 100 then fell out (Jake Butt, Michael Ferns, Bryan Mone), Crawford's just a well rounded player. He's decently agile, has good closing speed, and never lets his size get in the way of laying a good lick. Just as any high schooler taking physics will tell you, force=mass X acceleration. What Crawford lacks in mass, he more than makes up for with his acceleration. His lack of size is such a non-factor that his coaches have him playing as the nickel CB, a role usually reserved for a solid run defender, ideally a safety/CB/LBish hybrid like Dymonte Thomas. Crawford is NOT like the Cass Tech midget corners, quite the opposite. He's got good leaping ability, a nice set of hands, and knows how to track the ball through the air.
There are a few aspects of his game that need some polish, however. He's decently disciplined in zone coverage, but in several of his plays, he starts to cheat out because he senses the ball's going elsewhere. When you're playing against HS quarterbacks, that'll work for you. Not so much in the college game. When he's in run support, he also has the tendency to avoid wrapping up ballcarriers. Fixable with time, all in all.
There are a few mitigating factors to Crawford that portend his inevitable slippage out of the top 100. While he closes well, his agility in and out of cuts isn't anything special, and his hips aren't too flexible. I'd be interested in seeing him in a camp setting where he's put in more man-to-man situations. In his current scheme, he's playing mainly zone. As far as rankings go, he'll always be limited by his size, as well. Sure, there's Adoree Jackson this year. But look at the guys surrounding him in the Composite CB Rankings (6'1, 175; 6', 190; 6', 175). Fair or not, the rankings gurus are generally not very nice to shorter guys.
As for where Crawford is a good fit...well I'm not sure yet. His lack of super coverage ability and awesome run defense probably means he's either a nickel CB or a boundary CB. Although Courtney Avery was the Nickel CB through most of last year, it seems like the staff prefers bigger safety types, as Gordon played that role last year and Thomas is set to start this year. At boundary CB, Crawford has the misfortune of coming in a year after Jabrill Peppers. If they put Jabrill on the other side of the field, he'll have to compete with some combination of JR Reon Dawson, RS So Channing Stribling (or the other way around- I think one of them redshirts, the other doesn't), and RS FR/So Brandon Watson. Smart money says Peppers is the starter at BC and none of this matters anyway. Hopefully, Crawford can redshirt. After sitting behind/rotating with Peppers for a few years, Crawford should have a good chance at a starting role.
As for the 2015 class, well it's too early to tell what this really means so far. Since the coaching staff seems to be peddling through CBs on special teams and generally forgoing redshirts for DBs, they'll also have to be recruited at a higher rate. My assumption would be the staff targets 1-2 more CBs in the cycle. MI ATH Brian Cole could probably play there, but he's being recruited as a WR right now. Other viable targets- OH DB Tyree Kinnel (probably a S), VA CB Garrett Taylor, MI CB Tyson Smith, MI CB John Kelly.