Committed Over: Aaron Crawford committed to North Carolina over other finalists Boston College and Virginia. His offer list also included Maryland, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
Rated: Crawford is a three-star prospect and rated the No. 34 defensive tackle in Scout.com's 2015 class.
On Film: The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder from Ashburn (Va.) Stone Bridge has a great get-off at the snap, uses his hands well, has good body control and plays to the whistle. Crawford changes direction well, has good instincts and reads plays well.
He plays with a good pad level and explodes into an offensive lineman and wins the leverage battle. He drives his feet and has straight-line quickness to get into the backfield.
As Crawford works with the staff at UNC, his technique will get more refined, and his rip move will become more compact and purposeful. The biggest area for improvement is in reshaping his body a bit.
Crawford plays at 300 pounds, and adding a bit more muscle mass should increase his flexibility, and his ability to run down plays. He has the motor to do it, and increase his 20-yard sprint will make him an even better player.
In looking at his junior film (below), start with the second play on the tape. He fires off the ball well and chases the play down, but imagine how much quicker he will get there if his body is a bit streamlined.
At the 30-second mark, Crawford uses his strength to push the offensive lineman to the side, then shows tremendous explosion to get up the field and into the backfield. He covers those three to four quickly and makes the play.
Also, Crawford's willingness and understanding to use different moves is on display as he uses a rip move to get past the offensive lineman and up the field. He does it instinctually and with fluidity.
Finally, at the 1:30 mark, Crawford shows his body control. Again, he gets off the ball quickly, turns his shoulders to make himself smaller to get past the line of scrimmage and into the backfield to make the play.
And throughout the film, Crawford does a good job of not only getting to the ball carrier, but breaking down, changing direction and using his athleticism and strength to make the tackle.
Recruiting Impact: Getting Crawford on board was important for a number of reasons, the first, of which , he's a good player. It also gives the Tar Heels a nose guard, which isn't the easiest position to fill in a class.
There are ancillary benefits as well, and the commitment shows the staff can handle transitions overcome adversity to land a commitment. It may sound minor, but Crawford became comfortable with Walt Bell, and when the assistant coach left UNC, it meant someone had to step in, build the relationship again, and make sure other schools didn't pick UNC apart because of the staff change. Seth Littrell moved in, and defensive line coach Keith Gilmore did a nice job of making the tag team work, and ensuring Crawford was comfortable with the staff dynamic.
When it comes to recruiting the interior of the defensive line moving forward, players, the Tar Heels remain in contention for several others, although they project more as a 3-technique player instead of a nose guard.
North Carolina remains in contention with Lexington (N.C.) North Davidson four-star Shy Tuttle, Suffield (Conn.) Academy four-star Christian Wilkins, Orangeburg (S.C.) Orngb Wilkinson four-star Albert Huggins and Lincolnton (N.C.) High four-star Darian Roseboro, who is rated as a defensive end but could move inside and play defensive tackle in college.
Quotable: "A couple of weeks after that first visit, I was just thinking about all the schools that had offered," Crawford said. "And I just felt great about UNC. I have ties to there -- from my trainer to my coach. It was just a great feeling."
Final Thought: The combination of explosion, pad level and tenacity in which Crawford plays with is impressive, and he can be the type of run stopper needed for UNC to play its multiple fronts. If he reshapes his body a bit and increases his strength, both of which should happen in a college weight training program, he will be a very good player for the Tar Heels.
He is going into a position that is built for more experienced, older players because of the need for strength and the understanding of using ones hands to keep the offensive linemen off of them, so it takes time to learn the technique.
However, he mix of pad level and the way he fires off the ball is exciting. In fact, he reminds me a lot of what Greg Webb looked like as a junior in high school.