ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s 2016 class has been easy to follow and cover. Pick a player, ask about certain aspects of his game — and of course, it helps that there have been handfuls from which to choose.
However, Kekoa Crawford — another swift upriser who’s benefiting from a healthy head start — deserves special consideration. He’s played special teams and has a couple of tackles. He’s run jet sweeps. He’s caught passes and scored. Simply said, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound freshman has easily been one of the Wolverines’ top newcomers.
But there’s more to Crawford than pure athletic ability. The former high-end recruit possesses an affinity for blocking. Fast, direct blocking.
Coach Jim Harbaugh, who emphasizes the art of throwing weight, appreciates the freshman’s approach to the finer points of the game.
“He’s one of our better blockers, as just a freshman… and he’s gotten into the game and gotten opportunities because of his willingness and his ability to block,” said Harbaugh, whose No. 3-ranked Wolverines (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) appear to be on a massive collision course with the College Football Playoffs.
“And it was great to see, at the end of the game, in the last quarter, a lot of young players were playing on both sides. And he made one of the best catches I think I’ve seen all year — from Kekoa Crawford. It was outstanding.”
The catch: 48:23 in the video
With 7:19 remaining on the game clock, and following an interception by Delano Hill, Michigan took over at its own 17-yard line, led by quarterback John O’Korn. Scrambling, O’Korn threw across his body to Crawford, who contorted his body backward in order to make the fingertip catch (just before tumbling to and rolling on the ground).
Watch it a few times. You’ll see why Harbaugh called it one of the best receptions he’s seen this season.
Later, Crawford scored Michigan’s final touchdown: a nine-yarder from O’Korn. Wide open, Crawford appeared to have called for the ball. O’Korn quickly obliged.
Crawford finished with two catches for 25 yards and a score. He sees action each game, and he made a strong impression as the Wolverines’ third receiver versus the Terps.
The block: 10:00 in video
Every single yard counts for the Wolverines, who have smashed opponents because of that very approach. With that said, if not for a block by Crawford, running back Ty Isaac’s 53-yard rush in the fourth quarter may have only been a 50-yard rush.
Three yards during the final stages of a 59-3 blowout? Yup. They’re all important and all worth throwing a body.
Maryland defensive back Josh Woods learned that Saturday in Ann Arbor. He took the hit.
However, Crawford also kept an eye on JC Jackson, cutting his angle toward Isaac before taking out Woods.
“I give kudos to Kekoa,” said senior fullback Khalid Hill, a 6-foot-2, 263-pound goal-line bruiser. “To be honest, to be a freshman, even with our starters, he’s one of our best blocking receivers… he goes out, and he takes it like it’s his job. He goes out and does it 100-percent.
“He ‘punches’ guys when he blocks them, too. It’s not just like, ‘Oh, I’m going to hit you,’ it’s ‘I’m going to hit you and keep driving you until you’re on your back…'”