By Michael Spath
Kekoa Crawford is already among elite company. In the annals of Michigan football history, only eight wide receivers have ever worn the No. 1 jersey and just five – Tyrone Butterfield, Anthony Carter, Greg McMurtry, David Terrell and, then, Crawford donned it as true freshmen.
Those four preceding him combined for 53 receptions in their freshman campaigns with Carter and Terrell going on to experience All-American careers and McMurtry considered one of the best Michigan receivers of the 1980s. Butterfield was, unfortunately, a bust.
Heading into his sophomore season, Crawford has a chance to emerge the top target on this Maize and Blue team this year, and in that vein, he could be more like another great U-M wideout to wear the No. 1 eventually – Braylon Edwards.
The 6-3, 200-pound Edwards made just three grabs as a rookie in 2001 before exploding for 67 receptions as a sophomore in 2002, to lead the team. The 6-2, 195-pound Crawford had a mere four catches last season, including a touchdown against Maryland.
The Edwards’ comparison is compelling, but I believe Crawford will more likely resemble the sophomore year performance of a tall, rangy receiver from Florida, Orlando native Greg Mathews.
Mathews was a four-star and top-100 recruit in 2006, ranked the no. 93 player nationally hailing from one of the country’s top talent producing states.
Crawford was ranked the No. 129 player nationally from the talent-rice California and is similarly built to the 6-3, 195-pound Mathews.
After catching seven balls in 2006 as a freshman, Mathews locked up the No. 3 receiver role in his second year behind Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington, hauling in 39 receptions for 366 yards and three scores in 2007.
Crawford could be due for comparable production as he jockeys with juniors Maurice Ways and Grant Perry, classmate Eddie McDoom, and freshmen Tarik Black, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins for opportunities.
It’s quite possible that Crawford emerges from the crowd to follow in Edwards’ footsteps, crossing the 60-catch threshold as Wilton Speight’s top intended target, but with that many competitors, it’s also just as likely that he settles into a supporting role, like Mathews did before him.