Consistency is Key for Crawford

The 2016 football season was pretty good to West Virginia University running back Justin Crawford.

In his first season in Gold and Blue, the junior earned the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honor and a spot on the All-Big 12 Second Team.

When Crawford stepped out on Mountaineer Field for the first time in the home opener against Missouri, Mountaineer Nation was excited, and anxious, to see if the 2015 national junior college player of the year would live up to the hype.

And in front of his coaches, teammates, and 60,125 fans Crawford proved that he indeed was just as good as advertised. He finished with 21 carries for 101 yards and one touchdown. During that first outing as a Mountaineer, it was evident it was going to be fun season watching Crawford in the backfield.

He saw action in all 13 games and started in four. He finished the season with 1,184 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 6 nationally in rushing yards per carry.

Crawford tallied a career-best 331 yards against Oklahoma, 13 shy of the program record set in 2012 by Tavon Austin, and 209 yards in the regular season finale win over Baylor. In addition to the Missouri win, he also tallied 100+ yards against Kansas State and Kansas.

After starting his career at WVU with that type stat sheet, how does he finish it this season with even more success?

Running backs coach Tony Dews provided the answer during the spring: consistency.

“Consistency is the biggest thing. Continuing to build on what he did a season ago and continuing to do the little things in terms of the basic everyday stuff.”

He was dealing with an ankle injury for most of the second half of the season, and aside from staying healthy and working on his strength, he said he had one key area of emphasis this spring.

“My pass protection. I can run the ball no hassle,” Crawford said. “Pass protection is my main goal, that’s what I am working on the hardest.”

With Rushel Shell’s expired eligibility, Crawford, the only senior, is emerging as the veteran leader, encouraging his fellow backs on and off the gird iron.

“Justin is doing an outstanding job of being a leader in the room and on the field. Sometimes he’s vocal, sometimes he’s not, but he’s been very consistent in terms of his work ethic on the field,” Dews added of Crawford’s leadership.

Days before the Gold-Blue game, Crawford and Coach Dews agreed they were both pleased with his progress during the spring.

“I was able to work on things to put me in a better position to help my team win games. I feel pretty confident right now,” Crawford said, adding that he was looking forward to his first spring game as a Mountaineer.

Back in January, after reportedly considering to test the draft, Crawford reassured the West Virginia faithful via twitter that “I will wear that old gold and blue for one more amazing year of my life.”

Fans saw a glimpse of what that one more amazing year could look like during the opening possession of the spring game as Crawford proved what he can do with nothing but green grass ahead. He put up Gold’s first points with a 51-yard touchdown run and showed that powerhouse we saw last season was ready to pick up right where he left off.

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