2016 Season Countdown: #44 Kekoa Crawford

2016 Season Countdown: #44 Kekoa Crawford


July 29, 2016

Dylan Crawford with a very excited mother

Name: Kekoa Crawford
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 183 lbs.
High school: Rancho Santa Margarita (CA) Catholic
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: #1
Last year: Crawford was a senior in high school (LINK). He made 51 catches for 822 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Final TTB Rating: 81

Crawford, who has also gone by the name Dylan, was a steal for the Wolverines. He was high on Michigan all along, but he was higher on Oregon. The Ducks didn’t offer for the majority of the process, and by the time he reached the point of wanting to decide, the Ducks had filled up at wide receiver with Eddie McDoom. Of course, Michigan ended up with both players – McDoom, an Under Armour All-American, and Crawford, a U.S. Army All-American. Crawford caught his passes from K.J. Costello (Stanford) last year and was actually the #2 receiver on his team behind 2017 Oklahoma commit Grant Calcaterra.

I was encouraged by Crawford’s performance in the U.S. Army Bowl. He didn’t light the world on fire, but he showed that he has the size, strength, and running ability to compete against other elite players, many of whom are college-ready. He’s also a tenacious blocker. For those reasons I think he’s the most likely freshman receiver to make an impact this year. The Wolverines were pretty thin at wide receiver last year, especially in the slot. Grant Perry was the only guy who got serious run at slot receiver, and that may have been somewhat limiting to the offense, forcing them to spend a little more time with multiple tight ends than perhaps they wanted. Of course, Jim Harbaugh will always use a lot of tight ends, but there’s room for another slot to make an impact on third downs or competing with Perry for snaps.

Prediction: Backup wide receiver





18 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1364
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Jul 29, 2016 at 1:04 PM

    Seems pretty high for this guy. There are too many returnees at WR for any true freshman to be that important, especially with our quality at TE. One or two true freshman WRs may play, but I would not bet on Crawford as one of the most likely. He may be a very good player down the road, but I think the coaches will want to redshirt him, and I don’t see him being so good right off the bat that they will feel like they can’t afford to not play him.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3849
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 29, 2016 at 1:17 PM

      FWIW, there are rumors floating about that Harbaugh let a few freshmen compete for the #1 jersey, and Crawford earned it. I haven’t heard that from a reliable place yet, so I didn’t put it in the initial write-up, but if there’s truth to it, that would indicate that he’s atop their pecking order of freshmen.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 29, 2016 at 1:22 PM

        I thought I read he asked for it as a recruit and got it.

        But yeah, he certainly could be the best one. Guessing about freshman is guessing. My guess remains McDoom.

        I like that we have so many options

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 6285
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 29, 2016 at 1:26 PM

      I’ll bet you it’s more than one or two. Michigan is set to lose both starters and will need to groom replacements, plus they play an easy schedule that projects to offer a lot of opportunities for back-ups to play. PLUS PLUS they could use an infusion of playmaking – a 3rd WR who is big play threat.

      I’d flip your argument and say one or two could redshirt.

      That said, I don’t think any one of them is a critical player who would be missed — but we’re in the 40s still. This is the area where guys only matter if there is an injury. If Darboh or Chesson go down – Crawford could be a replacement. I know Ways and Harris are around but neither is much more proven than Crawford and both got passed by a 3-star freshman who was responsible for INTs against Utah.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1364
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Jul 29, 2016 at 2:10 PM

        Let’s put it this way..I’d expect most of our pass-catching production at WR to be concentrated in the top 2 or 3 guys, with probably more completions to TEs than we’ve had in a long time. Even if there is some separation in talent and playing time among the freshmen, I doubt any of them will stand out from the others in terms of actual productivity or make a meaningful impact this year. I think it’ll be more like one guy getting 4 catches for 21 yards and one getting 2 catches for 8 yards…basically interchangeable as far as stats go. As you say, Ways and Harris are not proven, but we’ve rarely gotten meaningful production from true freshmen WRs, either.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 6285
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 29, 2016 at 2:48 PM

          More than last year when barely anyone caught passes beyond the top 3 WR?

          Those guys all return and have solidified their reputation with fans but I think the coaches already saw them as locks heading into the season (well except maybe the Harris/Perry/Canteen battle which wasn’t fully decided until a few games in).

          The bigger change is the schedule. Michigan had a bunch of games that were supposed to be close last year. This year they’re going to be multi-TD favorites and likely have a lot of 2nd halves to work on development.

          Manningham and Odoms both had over 400 yards as freshman. Manningham 6 TDs, Odoms 49 catches. To put that in perspective: Chesson had 50 catches last year, and Darboh 5 TDs. Perry had only 130 yards on the entire year – so I think people are really overstating how entrenched his role is. There’s room for another WR to breakout.

          I’m not saying a freshman is going to put up 400 yards and 6 TDs this year. I’m saying the opportunity is there. It would not surprise me if McDoom had say 350 yards and 3 TDs…or Harris finally broke out and ended up with 4-6 TDs on the year. Aided by garbage time production, it’s very possible.

          It does depend a bit on how close these games end up being. Rudock struggled for half of last year, but he put up 3K yards in the end. We could end up above or below that depending on how the season plays out.

          • Avatar
            Comments: 1364
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Jul 29, 2016 at 3:20 PM

            To give the other side of that perspective, consider all of the guys who’ve had 1000 yard receiving seasons for us, but did very little their first year: Desmond Howard, David Terrel, Tai Streets, Marquise Walker, Jason Avant, Braylon Edwards. WR is not an easy position for even really talented guys to step right in and make an impact at. Much tougher than RB.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 29, 2016 at 3:51 PM

            Those guys were mostly here when the program was running full-steam ahead under Moeller-Carr in the 90s. (After Bo left and the offense was modernized). Back then it was a lot less common for freshman to make contributions across the board. But at Michigan specifically, It was hard to break in as an underclassmen WR because the talent was consistently deep. Edwards freshman year he was sitting behind Walker and Bellomy. Avant behind Edwards and Bellomy. etc.

            Hoke’s WR recruiting was weak, even though Darboh and Chesson have both panned out. Perry wouldn’t have played as a freshman under Carr. I think Perry is a solid player but someone with more talent could take some of his snaps.

            I do agree WR is not as easy as RB, but freshman WR contribute all over the country every year.

        • Avatar
          Comments: 33
          Joined: 8/21/2015
          AA7596
          Jul 29, 2016 at 2:48 PM

          Hear what you’re saying, but that’s absolute best-case-scenario. There are a number of factors that—taken together—suggest things won’t play out that way:

          –Chesson injury concerns
          –no playmaker WRs whatsoever beyond Chesson/Darboh
          –need to keep Chesson/Darboh healthy
          –need to prepare for 2017

          I mean, just look at our spring game. Without Chesson and Darboh, Shane Morris was our 2nd-best receiver.

          If Chesson isn’t right, or if either of Chesson/Darboh so much as tweaks a hamstring at some point, we have a major situation on our hands. There’s a reason Harbaugh took so many WRs—we were dangerously thin there. As such, I think they’re going to limit those two whenever possible, and they’re going to try to identify alternatives—which means playing the freshmen and getting them the ball.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 29, 2016 at 3:36 PM

            “–need to keep Chesson/Darboh healthy”

            I think this is significant point. These guys have nothing to prove and don’t return next year. There’s not a lot of reason to play them in 2nd halves if we blow through our the early part of the schedule.

            4 or 5 of the first 7 games should be in hand by the 3rd quarter. You want those guys available for MSU and beyond.

          • Thunder
            Comments: 3849
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Jul 29, 2016 at 4:40 PM

            I agree that keeping Chesson/Darboh healthy makes sense, in theory. However, that will be something interesting to watch, because Harbaugh mostly kept Rudock in during blowouts and such last year. I think he might have been trying to give Rudock a chance to impress NFL scouts, so I’ll be curious if he also tries to give Chesson/Darboh chances to impress, too. Both of those guys still have something to prove, especially Darboh, IMO.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 29, 2016 at 6:45 PM

            The thing was that Rudock was still working through kinks late into the season. That’s not a concern with Chesson/Darboh/Butt. I don’t think they have much to prove at the college level.

            If you mean he is setting them up to get stats for NFL impressions…I don’t know what Harbaugh’s thinking is on that.

            I do think you could make a case for it. DPJ is going to be more likely to commit to Michigan if Chesson has a 1,400 yard year with 10 TDs than if M’s top WRs both have around 800 yards

  2. Lanknows
    Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jul 29, 2016 at 1:10 PM

    Good write-up. I like the rank for the top freshman WR (I think Crawford is that?) but I’d swap Crawford and McDoom because of the recruiting backstory you referenced above. Oregon seemed to want McDoom a lot more than they wanted Crawford – and it seems like they know WR recruiting pretty well. If nothing else, having 4 starting WR makes them experienced at it. Crawford was higher ranked but less aggressively recruited, at least by Oregon and Michigan it seemed.

    I do like Crawford and think he could be a fine player. I think the blocking thing, if it’s real, could be very meaningful. I like that you’ve brought up WR blocking repeatedly — this is what WRs are going to do on most plays in a Harbaugh offense.

    One other thought – I annually comment about the irrelevance of the ‘slot’ distinction. Perry played quite a bit of outside WR last year already already.

    I think Michigan doesn’t need another reliable player who can block. They need a guy who is dangerous with the ball in his hands. For that reason I’d put McDoom, and maybe Johnson, ahead of Crawford for now. Wouldn’t surprise me if all of them played though.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3849
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 29, 2016 at 1:28 PM

      I don’t put a ton of faith in Oregon’s ability to evaluate/produce wide receivers. Yes, they run a spread offense and put up some good numbers occasionally, but they don’t produce as many pros as one would think for a team that’s been so successful over the last decade or so. That’s a team that has done very well at identifying talent that fits their offense, but some of those guys probably wouldn’t be as productive at some other places. Crawford isn’t lightning quick like some of those guys who have had success at Oregon. He’s little more physical and a better fit in a pro-style offense. Meanwhile, McDoom is more of that skinny, quick-twitch guy who has had success at Oregon.

      Slot receiver is a worthwhile distinction. Sione Houma was a fullback, but he played some tailback. Jake Butt is a tight end, but he splits out in the slot sometimes. Jabrill Peppers isn’t a linebacker, but he’s playing SAM for Michigan. One word can’t encompass everything a player offers to a team, but terms can be used generally to identify a player’s skills.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 29, 2016 at 2:57 PM

        Keep in mind Oregon’s recruiting hasn’t been great until the last 5 years ago. Before that they were mostly looking for under the radar speed guys. I don’t think NFL production is a great measuring stick for them.

        So to your point, if you consider M more like an NFL offense, then the translation isn’t necessarily there.

        But if you consider that the NFL and everywhere else is evolving to smaller ‘slot’-type WRs (i.e., Oregon types) then that model becomes more relevant.

        —————-
        FB and RB are worthwhile distinctions certainly

        I don’t know that any label for Peppers really fits, but he’s just a special case.

        I see Y and U-TE (or whatever this staff calls them) as more worthy of distinction that slot and outside WR, perhaps even split end and flanker (which nobody uses anymore but utilize different skillsets).

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3849
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Jul 29, 2016 at 4:49 PM

          I’m not sure what you mean by Oregon knowing WR recruiting pretty well, though. Do they produce NFL players? No. Have a few guys been fairly productive? Sure, but most teams do. Darren Carrington looks like perhaps their best WR over the past several years, but otherwise, meh. Josh Huff had a great year in 2013. The year before that, the leading receiver (Huff) had 493 yards. In 2011 it was De’Anthony Thomas with 605 yards. Last year Bralon Addison led the team with 63 catches for 804 yards (12.8 yards/catch) and 10 TDs. I wouldn’t really say Oregon knows WR recruiting better than any other upper level team. I would be more inclined to be impressed if we were talking about Clemson or USC.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 29, 2016 at 6:40 PM

            Their offense is wildly successful and uses primarily 3 and 4 WR sets. They recruit a lot of them. They use a lot of them. I think that speaks to expertise in the area.

            USC and Alabama have a great track record for producing NFL players, but that’s what’s going to happen when you get 5-star guys every year. Oregon’s production (in terms of NFL guys) will start to increase now that they land 5-star recruits too. It doesn’t mean they’ll be better at identifying talent.

            I don’t know which school is best at identifying under-the-radar recruits who end up being successful in the NFL. Maybe Texas Tech (Mike Leach)?

  3. Avatar
    Comments: 1357
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Jul 29, 2016 at 2:25 PM

    I’m thinking Chesson isn’t healthy, and as a result you are going to see Butt and Bunting out there in skinny splits along with Darboh maybe Ways and hopefully Harris some, particularly early. i know we have a mess of them, but I think the outside receivers in general and the freshmen in particular are going to get limited snaps and targets as compared with last year.

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