It's been a while since I've come up with any new original content, I've had quite the creative block lately. But that's about to change because TNL is proud to introduce a new series: Back Away From the Kool-Aid. BAFKA (catchy, I know) is a sobering look at something Penn State related that is bordering on over-hype. Its primary purpose is to temper expectations that may be on the verge of getting out of control. To kick our inaugural BAFKA off, this edition will focus on Jack Crawford.
Name: Jack Crawford
Height: 6-5 Weight: 262
Class: True So.
40 Time: 4.67
40 Low: 4.56
40 High: 4.79
Hometown: Longport, N.J.
High School: St. Augustine
Playing Experience: One of only three true freshmen to play in every game last season.
2008 stats: 4 tackles (3 solo)
Reasons to drink up!
You don't have to look hard to find an article lauding Crawford as PSU's next great D end (or "Rushmen"). It seems the rumble started from "inside" reports during spring and culminated with the same hype during preseason camps. He's athletic as Hell, maybe the most athletic on the roster, has the quickness, speed, and strength to jump right in and handle Big Ten offensive tackles. He has the build of a pass rushing end: tall and lanky with the wingspan of an eagle. Think Aaron Maybin but with more size. Even JoePa himself can't help but praise Crawford.
"He's got tremendous intensity," Paterno said. "He's got really good natural ability particularly for playing defensive end - he's a big, long-armed kid. He'll play at about 260. He can run. I think once he gets a little feel for the game, he'll be pretty darn good."
He's learned from some pretty good teachers.
He often went to Maybin, Gaines and Evans for advice last year and also has consulted former Lions stars like Tamba Hali and Michael Haynes when they return to Happy Valley.
He's also drawn rave reviews from his teammates.
"Being on that basketball court and transferring to football and having that body, it's not hard to show what you can do. But you've got to want to do it and he wants to be the best D-end he can be. He's doing a good job of it so far," linebacker Navorro Bowman said.
Time to put the drink down?
While he does posses many of the talents to jump right in and succeed those talents are very raw. Crawford is from England.
He spent much of his youth playing basketball and didn't get into football until his junior year in high school. He spent most of his junior year lining up offside and has a grand total of three years experience.
My first game in high school, I think I lined up offside almost every play. I learned a lot from my mistakes in the high school games, but I still didn't know everything when I came here.
Many point to the path Maybin took jumping in his sophomore year and breaking out. Sure he's like a bigger Maybin clone but remember, Maybin played a lot more football and he had TWO years of college football before starting (Maybin was a redshirt sophomore). Sure Jack played in all of Penn State's games last season but only contributed 4 tackles and those were against Coastal Carolina and Syracuse; Penn State's worst opponents. By comparison Aaron Maybin had 12 tackles and 4 sacks in limited action his freshman year. With Maybin you could see he was going to be great someday by his play on the field and not just on paper.
Maybin had a solid Josh Gaines manning the other side to take pressure off, Crawford is flanked by Jerome Hayes who has two damaged wheels. Hayes was good when he was healthy but it's been a long time since he's been healthy. If Hayes can't return to form, expect a lot more attention on Crawford, especially on passing downs.
It's a lot to expect someone from a country that cares more about futbol than football to parlay three years of pigskin experience into something more than average to decent.
As for the "reports" out of training camp, we heard the same kind of reports in the dark years as well and where did they get us then? Let's just say I'm always skeptical about "reports out of camp."
If I were a betting man
It's hard not to get caught up in the Crawford hype but it's just too early to anoint him the next great one. If this were any other position on the team I would be worried about a big letdown but this is the defensive line and L.J. has been churning out NFL defensive lineman faster than kids in China can make Nike shoes. While it may have been a learning experience for Crawford he's taken the thing to heart.
"Most guys, after the Blue-White Game, they're out having fun or with their family or whatever, but he was down there looking at the film," Bradley said. "He's a dedicated guy."
Look for good things from Crawford just remember though, he's new to this.