Reviewing the Redshirts is an off-season series meant to resurrect discussion around the current Irish freshmen who did not play in 2015.
There were 11 players this past year who retained a year of eligibility and today we look at a tiny spark plug defender ready to burst on to the scene.
CB, Shaun Crawford
Hometown: Lakewood, Ohio
Height: 5-8 1/2
247 Sports COMPOSITE RANKING:
4-star, No. 14 CB, No. 5 OH, No. 113 USA, 0.945 Score
Need at Position: High
Expected Spot on 2016 Depth Chart: Starter
Usually with these RtR posts we don't know much about the players beyond their recruiting film. For Crawford, he was quickly in the mix as a true freshman and had looked to start at nickel corner before tearing his ACL in late August right before the opener against Texas. Here's my look back at Crawford from last Signing Day:
If you take away size there's almost no flaws in Crawford's game. Pound for pound he's as gifted as anyone Notre Dame has recruited in 20 years. I truly believe that. Far too often the term ‘elite' gets thrown around so casually. With Crawford he has truly elite speed, explosiveness, burst, change of direction, acceleration, and more. Pretty much any category you're looking at with a corner he's great, including toughness, tackling, and ball skills. Size is still a concern though. He measured at 5-8 during The Opening although he scorched a 4.48 time in the 40-yard dash. If we're grading Crawford exclusively as a nickel corner (where he'll probably contribute from day one) then he's probably good enough to warrant a 96 or 97. Ideally, he'll be physical enough to start at corner but if he's an upperclassman roving nickel corner he has All-American potential.
The situation at corner for 2015 was odd, specifically after you got past the starters Keivarae Russell and Cole Luke. Fall camp began with the veteran Matthias Farley holding down the nickel position but by the time the team arrived back to campus from Culver Academy suddenly Shaun Crawford was at nickel, Farley was back at safety, and freshman Nick Coleman was also making waves. Oh, and Russell was also practicing a lot at nickel, too.
Once Crawford tore his ACL the nickel position was shut down by VanGorder and staff while suddenly out of nowhere Devin Butler was emerging as the third corner. During the season there was precious little playing time for anyone except Russell and Luke (until further injuries) and then at one point no one could possibly be bothered to train at nickel except receiver Torii Hunter.
If you believe some folks the loss of Crawford was a crushing blow to the defense--one from which they never recovered. I'm not sure that's a ringing endorsement of the coaching staff but it does say something about the talent of Crawford who was universally praised by everyone around the program. Once he tore his ACL, it didn't take Russell long to praise Crawford.
The only question for 2016 seems to be if Crawford is going to win the No. 2 corner position behind senior Cole Luke or if he'll return to his nickel spot and finally give VanGorder the type of playmaker he's wanted defending the slot. Either way, it seems like Notre Dame wins. Crawford has all the tools to be the most important freshman or redshirt freshman to take the field next season.
More good news has already happened as Crawford was cleared for full participation earlier this month so the staff will have plenty of time to figure out how to use him in 2016.