Notre Dame manuevered the 2017 spring football season relatively unscatched on the injury front. The Irish received more good news on the injury front on Sunday when rising junior Shaun Crawford announced over Instagram that he has been fully cleared by the medical staff following his ruptured Achilles last fall.
Shaun Crawford participated in spring practice, but did not partake in any contact drills so he had been active. Now he will have no restrictions heading into off-season conditioning as Notre Dame begins to prepare for fall camp. Brian Kelly has said this spring, however, that even once Crawford is cleared, they will be overly cautious with him considering he has now had two major injuries in his first two seasons.
Brian Kelly also said last week that Crawford will get looks at nickel when he returns and that the 3rd down defense is part of the defensive installation that is still remaining so Crawford won’t have too much catching up to do.
As a freshman, Crawford was the talk of fall camp before tearing his ACL before the season started. Last year he recorded and interception and returned a blocked PAT for two points in the season opening loss to Texas before rupturing his Achilles the following week. It’s very easy to see why Notre Dame will be overly cautious this time around.
If Crawford is able to stay healthy and play anywhere close to the form he displayed last year, the Notre Dame secondary just got a huge boost. Crawford was going to start from day one of his college career as the nickel corner before his first injury. Last year he was starting on the outside at the time of his second injury. Playing back at the nickel position makes sense in 2017 given it’s a lighter workload than playing on the outside.
Notre Dame’s secondary was already looking very strong at corner without Crawford in the mix. Julian Love, Donte Vaughn, Nick Watkins, and Troy Pride Jr give Notre Dame four corners that can play at a high level. Adding Crawford to the mix only strengths the corner position even more.
Unlike last year, Notre Dame will not have to rely on Crawford as much as they did a year ago because of all of the experience the young corners go last year and the return of Watkins who himself missed all of 2016. Notre Dame can pick and choose the spots and ways in which they utilize Crawford and bring him along slowly.
While he has been cleared fully, a full recovery from an injury like the one Crawford suffered is a slow process. It will take him a long time to regain all of his explosiveness and agility – if he is able to fully regain it at all.
After the bad luck that Crawford has had to start his collegiate career, it’d be impossible for any fan to not pull for this kid. He’s battled back from two major injuries now and is on track to contribute on the field this fall. If he can use the 2017 season to get back to where he was, he can still have a very productive career for Notre Dame. After the way he’s battled back, I wouldn’t bet against him doing just that.