Crawford has been making plays since 9th grade #iufb

Note: This story originally appeared in Wednesday’s edition of The Herald-Times and heraldtimesonline.com

None of this is new to Jonathan Crawford.

Not starting games as a freshman, not the interceptions and certainly not the work. The Indiana safety has been doing this for years.

Crawford was one of the special players during coach Rick Rodriguez’s 15 years as head coach at Largo (Fla.) High School. He was one of the few who started all four years, stepping onto campus and earning a spot in Largo’s secondary from Day 1.

Sound familiar?

At Indiana, Crawford has started all three games he’s played, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors after intercepting two passes in Saturday’s win over Western Kentucky. Back home in Florida, his former high school coaches are watching.

And they’re not surprised.

“He put a lot of time in,” said Rodriguez, who coached Crawford during his first three seasons at Largo. “Usually, freshmen don’t start in high school. We were a pretty good program, and he got in there and started as a freshman. It’s uncommon.”

But Rodriguez and Marcus Paschal, who served as Crawford’s defensive backs coach all four years and as his head coach during his senior season, say that Crawford is also uncommonly talented.

He was a three-sport athlete at Largo, the same school that produced nose tackle Adarius Rayner, participating in football, basketball and track and field. Crawford set the Largo school record with 12 career interceptions, including a single-season best six as a sophomore. As a senior last fall, Crawford posted 75 tackles after making 56 stops and two interceptions as a junior.

Paschal, a two-time All-Big Ten honoree at Iowa, believes it was all a product of the work Crawford did behind the scenes. After leaving Iowa in 2006, Paschal floated between four NFL teams before returning to coach at Largo, his alma mater. When he met Crawford as a high school freshman, Paschal promised to give him the instruction that players at other schools weren’t receiving at the high school level.

That included technique, film study and overall preparation.

“I preached and told him about the details,” Paschal said. “When coach Noah (Joseph, IU’s co-secondary coach) came down in the spring after he had already signed, we had him set up on the laptop and I was going through the Indiana coverages with him and just translating them into some of the things that we were doing here at Largo.”

Now in Bloomington, Crawford is making the most of his opportunity.

Crawford learned during the last week of fall camp that he’d open the season as a starter. He’s had moments befitting his freshman title, while other moments have been born of brilliance.

“You just play the next play,” Crawford said. “It’s a long game.”

Joseph said he’s tried to make things as simple as possible for Crawford and the rest of the freshmen in the IU secondary. There aren’t many rules for how they’re supposed to play, there aren’t many checks or restrictions. Joseph tells his freshmen the most important thing they can do is understand who they’re keying and what their responsibilities are.

“You’ve got great athletic ability, so go use your athletic ability and go play ball,” Joseph tells his newcomers. “He’s been in the right spots at times, and there’s no such thing as luck. I think that’s when preparation meets opportunity, and he’s tried to prepare himself throughout the week with extra meeting times and stuff like that to get the looks that he needs to play a little bit faster on Saturdays.”

Briefly in Indiana’s recruitment of Crawford, the Hoosiers pegged him as a receiver. He played both ways at Largo, recording 300 receiving yards and two touchdowns as a senior.

But Indiana wanted his length and 6-foot-2 frame on defense. Helping that cause were the handful of receivers already on IU’s recruiting board.

“It was an easy decision for (offensive coordinator) Kevin Johns and coach (Kevin) Wilson to say, ‘Hey, we need this guy in the defensive secondary,’” Joseph said.

So far, it’s clear why.

Crawford is third on the team with 18 tackles, including one touchdown-saving stop in the narrow season-opening win over Southern Illinois. His two interceptions Saturday lead the team.

This week, he’ll be looking for more.

“He’s just scratching the surface,” Paschal said.

2 comments

  1. He isn’t there yet but he is going to be a beast of a Safety before he leaves IU. It was good to see he recognize where the QB was going with the ball last game. He needs to not jump on patterns unless he knows there are not any more cuts the WR will make. It will be good if the front gets to the QB in a hurry. The last game as quick as the QB got the ball out of his hand our front was just almost there most of the passes. It is time to get there and sack the QB instead of letting them take their time to pick out what receiver to throw to. This game will be the game to step up like a defense with experience.

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