Throughout Missouri City Marshall’s season opener against Madison, senior tailback Davon Crookshank showed why he was worthy of a Wisconsin offer. Crookshank , who received his Wisconsin offer in May and committed in late July, was able to display solid vision, patience and an aggressive running style in rout to a 13 carry for 91 yards (7.0 yards per carry) and two touchdowns in Marshall’s 19-16 come-from-behind win.
Marshall has plenty of options on offense, including Jeremy Smith, who holds an offer from Michigan State and SMU, so Crookshank wasn’t necessarily the offense’s focal point. When he did get the football, he was able to produce having five carries of 10 or more yards, along with scoring the game’s first and winning touchdown.
Crookshank’s first two series of the game were impressive as he was able to account for 31 yards on three carries and score a 12-yard touchdown. On the touchdown run he was able to use a little shiftiness to make a defender miss and did a good job of falling forward in the end zone as he was being tackled. Crookshank’s longest run was 17 yards, and he was able to use his speed to bounce it outside. Even when the Marlins were able to surround him with defenders, Crookshank made it difficult to be brought down without multiple defenders. Even though he fought for extra yards, he did a good job of hanging on to the ball high and tight.
He only carried the ball three times in the third quarter but stepped up and finished the game off when his teammates needed him to lead.
“Knowing it’s my last year and that we (are) seniors, I know they’re going to lean on me so I know I have to get the job done,” Crookshank said. “I’ve been working really really hard this offseason to be ready for that.”
One area where all high school running backs need work is in pass protection, but Crookshank showed a willingness to get after it in the passing game. A perfect example came the second play of the game; Crookshank recognized an incoming blitz, and sealed off the oncoming defender by knocking him on his back, which allowed Smith to complete the pass for a touchdown that went 65 yards (a play was called back because of inelgible man downfield).
“I take (pass protection) real serious and I knew last year that was one of my main weaknesses so I knew I had to work on that,” Crookshank said. “Just want to protect our quarterbacks and help the lineman out.”
With it being the season opener, Marshall’s offense wasn’t as crisp as it needed to be, which resulted in some miscommunication and lack of fundamentals. Even though Crookshank had a nice play in pass protection during the first offensive series, he still needs to work on his technique. When Crookshank waits to take on blockers in passing situations he stands straight up. Even though Smith is elusive, Crookshank needs to get in a better stance to be ready to take on a defender, as he lost power when he stood straight up. It wasn’t surprising to see that his technique still needs work but it’s encouraging to see him get after it in the passing game. Running backs coach Thomas Brown will make sure he gets that corrected when he arrives on Wisconsin’s campus.
Crookshank did have a chance to play a little receiver. He caught one pass for four yards in the first quarter, but he was targeted two other times and had one critical drop. As time expired in the first half, Crookshank saw a touchdown pass go off his hands in the back of the end zone. Crookshank showed some frustration after he dropped it considering there was no defender challenging him.
Although he appeared to be used as a decoy most of the game, Crookshank took over when the game was on the line and capped off a back-and-forth fourth quarter.
On the last four offensive plays of the game for Marshall he had runs of eight, nine, two and a one-yard touchdown run.
From what I saw of Crookshank, I can see why the coaches are enamored with him, and I see him having a productive career for Wisconsin. Even if Crookshank was the only running back signed in February, the staff should be very happy with the signing. Crookshank just ran hard every play and made the defenders work to tackle him, a trait that fits well in the Badgers’ running back mold.
Crookshank is listed at 5-11 and 185 pounds but plays bigger then that. I think a redshirt year could do him well at Wisconsin, depending on how he continues to develop along with freshmen running backs Taiwan Deal and Caleb Kinlaw. He’s a confident young man, and you can tell he wants to be counted on in situations where he can keep drives alive or score a big touchdown.
“Everything I put it on me, no matter what it is,” Crookshank said. “In my head, when I get to the sideline, I put the blame on me. Everything that happens I put it on me because I know they’re going to have to go to me and I can get it in.”