Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Scouting the Roster: Shaun Crawford

June 22, 2017

Player name: Shaun Crawford

Height: 5’9”

Weight: 175

Player position: Cornerback

Years of eligibility left: 3

Projected rank on the depth chart: Starting nickel

Player productivity so far:

2016 (2 games): 6 tackles 1 INT

What player does best: This all obviously based off of seeing Crawford prior to his injury last season, but a healthy Crawford does a lot of things really well. He has outstanding mirroring skills and his compete level is extremely high. He’s an all-out effort guy all the time.

 He showed big time short area quickness out of his transitions and a nose for the football after he breaks on it. His change of direction is elite and that allows him to cover slot receivers that have a two way go.

Despite his stature, he is a strong tackler that can be a factor in the running game. He’s comfortable adding in near the line of scrimmage unlike a lot of corners. He started to really show a knack with his timing as a blitzer as well and adds value in that capacity from the nickel. He is smart, instinctive, and simply a really good football player.

What player needs to work on: I don’t think he can work on it, but his size can be an issue in jump ball situations. He’s not growing any time soon so he just has to play as physical as he can and with perfect technique.

I’ve seen him be over-aggressive in coverage and bite on double moves. He has shown good makeup speed in the past, but it will be interesting to see if that’s still the case after the injury. How much the injury will affect him is going to be the big question.

If his game changes because he isn’t as twitchy, that means his technique is going to have to be on point for him to be in the mix. With his size already a disadvantage for him, it would be a big blow if he isn’t the same kind of athlete he was before.

He is coming off two straight non-contact injuries so his health is clearly a concern. I’m sure he is doing everything he can rehabilitate and have a healthy 2017. This is also less to do with him working on it and might be more of a reality that he will struggle to be available. We’ll see where everything goes with him this fall.

Productivity of former ND players and top players in the nation at his position:

A lot of these defenders from other programs were high level players in the nickel and also started at other positions as well. I went back to 2011 to find the last high level nickel for the Irish.

Jamoris Slaughter 2011: 45 tackles 4 TFL 2 sacks 2 PBU 1 INT 1 forced fumble

Donte Jackson LSU: 39 tackles 8 PBU 2 INT 1 forced fumble

Ryan Carter Clemson: 30 tackles 5.5 TFL 1 sack 7 PBU 1 INT

Duke Dawson Florida: 24 tackles 3.5 TFL 7 PBU 1 INT 1 forced fumble

Mook Reynolds Virginia Tech: 64 tackles 9.5 TFL 2 sacks 6 PBU 2 INT 1 forced fumble

Budda Baker Washington: 71 tackles 10 TFL 3 sacks 6 PBU 2 INT 1 forced fumble

What can we hope for? Going through the season healthy is right at the top of the list. But after that, it’s more about getting back to his previous form as an athlete.

We can hope he is the same player he was prior to his injury and can make a significant impact on this defense. Forget one of the 11 best on the defense if that happens. One of the 5 best would be more accurate and I think Notre Dame fans can hope for that if he is fully healthy. He can be a very productive player from everything from tackles for loss on the perimeter, breaking up passes in coverage, and generally being around the football a lot. He is a playmaker.

We can hope that he establishes himself as the starting nickel with other responsibilities as an outside corner as well and that he makes plenty of plays for the Irish.

What is a realistic expectation? It’s realistic to expect that Crawford will need some time to be eased back in before becoming his old self. It may even be realistic to think he may never again have the same ceiling he had before this injury. Time will tell as some have bounced back and been fine, but others have not.

I see it this way: Crawford is likely not going to compete to be a starting outside corner on the 2017 Irish team. At least not from day one. I think it would be smart to just have him concentrate on the nickel to help limit his reps and put him on the equivalent of a pitch count before he goes back to playing as many snaps as possible.

He can still make an impact this way, just maybe not as much as he would if he was playing 60+ plays a game. I think it’s realistic to expect that a healthy Crawford will win the nickel job, but just stick primarily in the nickel and play around 30 plays a game at the beginning of the season with that number expanding later in the year.

What about the future? It always comes back to if he is healthy, but the future is bright for him if he is on the field. He would have been a major factor on the 2015 and 2016 defenses and not having him was a huge blow.

I really think he can do some special things in Mike Elko’s defense. He can be a different version of a Rover when they need him to be against specific opponents and his ability to be a great run defender and blitzer means we may see him line up in several different spots in the next few years.

Crawford is one of my favorite football players to watch on the Notre Dame roster. I’ve always been a big believer in him and think he can still do great things in South Bend as long as he can stay on the field.
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