The defensive backfield will be one of the key aspects of the 2018 Indiana football team to watch. It is no secret that with the loss of key pieces like Rashard Fant, Chase Dutra, and Tony Fields, the Hoosiers have question marks on the back end of its defense.
There is also no doubt that IU has several key defensive backs returning, including Marcelino Ball, A’Shon Riggins, Andre Brown and others.
One returning upperclassman is already on the radar of the next level. Chad Reuter of NFL.com released his top 150 college players to watch in 2018 a few days ago. The lone Hoosier on the list was safety Jonathan Crawford. Having just watched 11 of his former teammates pick up various NFL opportunities, the talented senior safety is now in a position to do the same.
Crawford is a 6-foot-2, 200 pound senior from Largo, Florida. He has been entrenched in the IU defense since he arrived as a freshman. The Hoosiers had immediate needs at the safety position in 2015, and Crawford started from day one.
He quickly earned a reputation as a ball hawk. In 2015 Crawford led the Hoosiers as a freshman with four interceptions. He also finished second on the team in tackles. Not to be outdone, he had an even more productive sophomore season, leading IU with seven total takeaways. His 4 fumble recoveries were tied for 2nd nationally.
For his career, Crawford has started all 38 games at safety. He is the current Hoosiers leader in several categories including 209 tackles, 135 solos, 16 pass breakups, eight interceptions, five fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles (tied), 13 takeaways and two blocked kicks.
Crawford earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in 2017 (coaches and media). For the year he posted 62 tackles (4th on the team), 42 solo (5th), three tackles for loss, eight pass breakups (2nd), one interception (T-2nd), one fumble recovery (T-2nd) and one blocked field goal.
2018 is going to put new demands on Crawford. As a senior, and the most experienced player in a relatively young unit, head coach Tom Allen is going to be looking for Crawford to do more than just make plays on the field. Allen had this to say about that during the spring:
“His position demands (leadership) as a senior now,” Allen said of Crawford. “Being the only guy back there with all that experience, so he feels it, he knows he has to (lead). Even though he’s not a naturally loud guy that likes to talk a lot, he cares about this team.
“He knows he has to do that (lead) now, and he’s doing a great job.”
The Indiana defense has made major strides over the last two years under the guidance of former defensive coordinator and now head coach Tom Allen. Against elite Big Ten speed and talent, a reliable back end is critical to continuing that trend. It seems certain that Jonathan Crawford will be a centerpiece in the Hoosiers’ efforts to do just that.
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier