Tick tock. We are in the final week of camp and less than two weeks from the season opener against Akron. An uncertain team in an uncertain season is gradually resolving that uncertainty at key positions. A lot of freshmen will play in 2011 and, regrettably, Conner Crowell will not be one of them. Yeah, this post will be a bit of a downer, but Crowell, a linebacker from Waldorf, Maryland, sadly suffered a broken left ankle about a week after he committed to Ohio State. A promising linebacker with speed to spare did not rebound like Andrew Norwell did last year, having to undergo another surgery about a month ago. Regardless, and importantly assuming a full recovery with no lingering, long-term effects, Crowell provides speed at the position of linebacker and could have a solid career for the Buckeyes. I profile him here in this 14th installment of the fourth edition of this now 23-part series titled Better Know A Buckeye.
His Recruitment: Someone with more authority than me may clarify or outright correct what follows, but Ohio State football likes Maryland. Ohio State doesn’t have to recruit any further than inside its own state and, maybe, next door Western PA. However, dwindling talent in Cleveland, inability to control Cincitucky and intrusions from rivals means it really should in order to maintain its status as an elite football program. To that end, Ohio State adds players from Florida, and Western PA and dabbles in Indiana and so on. However, recruiting out of state is costly. Ohio State has name recognition, but does not automatically overwhelm an out of state recruit, all things equal. Further, it’s expensive to fly out for in-home visits. To compensate, Ohio State likes to recruit states with deceptively great talent, but without much fanfare. One of those states Ohio State likes is Georgia, which it believes has Sunshine State-caliber talent without all the hassle of having to fend off everyone in the Sunshine State. Another state is Maryland, which serves programs like Virginia Tech, Florida and, especially, Penn Shtate well. Though nominally a distance from the Buckeye State, any recruit from Maryland is usually no more than 5-8 hours from Columbus. It’s also served Ohio State well in recent years. Lamaar Thomas did not pan out,2 but Dominic Clarke looks promising.
Enter Conner Crowell, who was surprised when, in March of last year, Ohio State let him know, indirectly, that he had a scholarship offer forthcoming. While most out of state recruits for the Buckeyes are impressed with the offer and appreciate it, Ohio State does not usually overwhelm them automatically. Conner Crowell was a bit different.
“It’s every kid’s dream to play at Ohio State. It’s one of the premier schools in the country. I went up there for a game and it was just an amazing atmosphere. I just loved it. Maybe one day I can play for them.”
So, Ohio State was definitely top of the list for Crowell and it resulted in a visit to Columbus for the 2010 spring game. He was more than impressed with what he saw. He described the campus as a “city within a city”, echoing similar remarks made by Travis Howard three years ago. When pressed on what the visit meant for his future college choice and his impending decision to pare his list of college choices, Crowell responded in kind.
“It was hard not to get caught up in the moment,” Crowell said. “I felt that I really could picture myself going (to Ohio State), it was really hard not to get caught up.”
And even though it is too early to cut down lists Crowell knows that the Buckeyes will be toward the top of his list up until it is time to make a decision.
“Yeah, definitely.” Crowell said.
Yet, Crowell was feeling no rush to make a decision and entertained offers from many Eastern seaboard schools of importance, and Duke. He also visited North Carolina, though before his trip to Columbus for our spring game. Rutgers was probably recruiting him the hardest. He was eventually courted by, surprise, Penn Shtate. The Nitts love recruiting Maryland and usually get a huge audience. The Old Line State contributes important players to the roster in a given year. Conner Crowell knew this.
“From where I’m from, they’re pretty much the hometown favorite, or one of the favorites around here. Around here, not too many people support Maryland,3 so that’s one of them. It’s really exciting for me, because Penn State is a very prestigious school, they’re very big and they’re going to be pretty good this year. It would be pretty cool to play for them.”
Other programs like Virginia jockeyed for position, but it looked like an Ohio State-Penn Shtate recruiting battle.
While Crowell was in no hurry through the spring and summer, his internal decision-making clock started to tick in November. He was making cuts through October and, minus a late appearance by Stanford, it still looked like an Ohio State-Penn Shtate recruiting battle. It also looked like a battle that Crowell was going to win.
He admitted that the decision was tough, and that there was some pressure to go to Penn Shtate like many Maryland prepsters before him. In particular, his high school teammate, Andre Dupree, was a fullback at Penn State.
“I just felt like I needed to be different. A lot of people around here just get that Penn State offer and go to Penn State. I wanted to be one of the first to go to Ohio State and to make a difference.”
Luke Fickell, who recruited Crowell as his position coach and will now be his head coach, recruited him hard as well. Ultimately, it was Tressel that got the word.
“The first person I told was coach Tressel, he was very excited to have me commit,” Crowell said. “He said I’ve got what they’re looking for, family-wise and academic-wise and of course football-wise. They’re just really excited to have me this year, and I’m excited to be there.”
Crowell was our first linebacker in the recruiting class, later joined by Curtis Grant.
Where He Excels: As we sadly know, Crowell suffered a pretty nasty injury not long after he committed to Ohio State and a subsequent surgery will sideline him for 2011. Assuming that away, there was a lot to like about Crowell when he committed.
Crowell is strong, certainly for his frame. He has the frame for a weakside linebacker, but the smarts and football IQ to play any of the three linebacker positions for Ohio State. When you watch his highlight film, watch how elegantly he weaves through traffic in pursuit of a ball carrier and how well he attacks the line of scrimmage. Assuming he makes a full recovery, Crowell has all the potential to be a very good one for Ohio State.
Must Work On: One source of uncertainty for me regarding Crowell was his size and his frame. He’s strong for his frame but, at 6’1-ish and 220lbs, I’m unsure of just how much weight he can pack on before his performance starts to noticeably diminish. It’s one reason why he was even mentioned as a candidate for the Star position in Ohio State’s defense. Even before his injury, it seemed like Crowell was as fast and about as big as he was going to be for the Buckeyes. The strength and conditioning staff would round him out, but there did not seem to be a lot they could do. Issues of durability in the rigors of Big Ten play follow.
Also, he will need to recover from his injury, but you already knew that.
Highlights: Senior year.
- In the final week before signing day, Jim Tressel gave a speech before Crowell’s packed high school auditorium. In hindsight, any lesson learned by the students at North Point High School will probably conjure mixed images.
- Crowell believes he’s the first Hawaiian to play football for Ohio State, and he might be right. He asked Fickell about this on the recruiting trail out of his own curiosity. To clarify, I mean “ethnic Hawaiian”, which is its own class of diverse ethnic groups native to the islands. Scott Terna, a former punter for Ohio State, was a Hawaii resident. Former players like Nicky Sualua were Samoan, which is something different. If so, Crowell could put his own unique footprint on Ohio State’s hallowed history.
- Athletics runs in the family. His sister is an assistant coach for the Oklahoma State Cowgirls softball team, having herself played for Virginia Tech. She got a masters at Ohio University, which has me wondering if that’s where his early interest in Ohio State originated.
- He had a 2009 SPARQ rating of 121.02, which is, well, gross. It was tops for his recruiting class and that wasn’t lost on ESPN’s RISE magazine. It underscores just how much Buckeye recruiting junkies thought he could be a real steal.
- Working out…
- Crowell’s commitment ended a bit of a dry spell in Ohio State recruiting. Here, Eleven Warriors considered the impact of his commitment.
- He will wear #36 for Ohio State and, may he wear it well.
I hope you consider Conner Crowell better known. I really hope he can fully recover from his surgeries.
Let’s put him on the board.
|Class of 2011|
|Name||Position||Hometown||Better Known?||Name||Position||Hometown||Better Known?|
|Michael Bennett||DT||Centerville, OH||Bryce Haynes||LS||Cumming, GA||05.29|
|Brian Bobek||OL||Palatine, IL||Jeff Heuerman||TE||Naples, FL||02.13|
|Tommy Brown||OL||Arkon, OH||05.18||Cardale Jones||QB||Cleveland, OH|
|Chris Carter, Jr||OL||Cleveland, OH||08.17||Braxton Miller||QB||Huber Heights, OH|
|Jeremy Cash||DB||Plantation, FL||04.18||Steve Miller||DE||Swingtown, OH||07.25|
|Conner Crowell||LB||Waldorf, MD||08.22|
|Chase Farris||DL||Elyria, OH||Ryan Shazier||LB||Plantation, FL||05.10|
|DerJuan “PeeWee” Gambrell||DB||Toledo, OH||Devin Smith||WR||Massillon, OH||07.05|
|Curtis Grant||LB||Richmond, VA||Evan Spencer||WR||Vernon Hills, IL||07.20|
|Doran Grant||DB||Akron, OH||Ron Tanner||DB||Columbus, OH||03.29|
|Joel Hale||DT||Greenwood, IN||06.06||Antonio Underwood||OL||Shaker Heights, OH||08.03|
|Kenny Hayes||DE||Toledo, OH||Nick Vannett||TE||Westerville, OH||06.29|
- I think he went off Twitter. It’s weird that’s such an essential part of college football fandom these days that I have to tell you where to follow their thoughts in 140 characters or less. [↩]
- …nor did Darrell Givens, for that matter. But alas. [↩]
- ed. note: This is absolutely true and hilariously crushing for Maryland. Penn State is probably a bigger draw in Maryland than the in-state flagship university. [↩]