With Ricky Walker and Vinny Mihota graduating and a depth chart with a major void at defensive tackle outside of Jarrod Hewitt and Robert Porcher IV, the Hokies knew they needed to add lots of defensive tackles to the roster not only out of high school but also from the JUCO level. Virginia Tech did just that landing five DTs including JUCO DTs DaShawn Crawford and Jaden Cunningham.
Upon arriving this spring, most believed that Crawford could come in and earn a starting job at defensive tackle which is exactly what he did as the first depth chart of the season revealed.
However, as Bud Foster shared earlier this week, it took some time for Crawford to transition to the Division I level with Crawford putting himself in position to make plays but not making them at that time in practice.
"Spring was new for him, he had 15 days. Had an outstanding summer in the weight room, put on some added weight, and then he’s had a great camp. The one thing he did in the spring, he put himself in position to make plays. His mind was kind of tying up his feet a little bit at times, but he was in good position. Maybe didn’t turn it loose like you’d want him to," Foster said on Crawford transitioning this past spring.
Justin Fuente also mentioned that the spring was a transition period for Crawford, but had plenty of praise for not only the work he put in then, but also the work he has put in throughout the offseason from his January arrival to fall camp.
"Getting DaShawn (Crawford) here and getting him working out in our off-season program, getting him acclimated to division one football has been big. So, having an extra spring with him has been very beneficial. He has benefited from that," Fuente said.
Crawford kept working hard though and had a breakout summer that led to a great fall camp starting with adding good weight that has him at 290 pounds answering a concern that he might be a little too small.
Meanwhile, Crawford started to look like the player who had over 15 tackles for loss for Jones County JC last season, with Foster noticing how Crawford has gone from positioning himself well during the spring to making lots of plays during the fall. That has also led to Crawford practicing with more confidence.
"The one thing he did this summer was learn his position, get stronger, and what you saw this fall was a guy that played at a higher speed, just playing with a little more confidence, and then was finishing plays and making plays. So I’m excited to see him play this week when it’s for real now. He’s been one of our most improved guys from last spring to this point, right now,” Foster said.
Teammate and fellow starting DT Jarrod Hewitt has also seen much of the same growth in his partner on the interior of the defensive line. Like Foster, Hewitt has been impressed with the growth of Crawford as a defensive tackle in Virginia Tech's defensive scheme while he's also been impressed with how Crawford has transitioned into the Hokies' locker room and embraced his teammates well.
"[DaShawn Crawford] is a good kid, man. He’s come a long way since he first got here. He’s adapted. For one, he’s just comfortable. He’s friends with everyone, he’s getting along with everyone. At first, it kind of seemed like he was kind of, I don’t know how to put it, just uncomfortable a little bit with transitioning from kind of across the country. Now he’s in his position, he’s playing well, he’s very consistent, and I’m looking forward to see what he does, too,” Hewitt said.
With Crawford now comfortable in the Hokies' defensive scheme combined with Hewitt having more experience, Virginia Tech's defensive tackle productivity seems poised for improvement even if Hewitt or Crawford aren't as good as Ricky Walker was when healthy last season.
Virginia Tech knew looking ahead to 2019 that they would have one quality starter at defensive tackle in Jarrod Hewitt but looked outside to create competition and find a second quality starter with the JUCO productivity of Crawford making him the clear frontrunner.
Over the past few months, DaShawn Crawford has proven why there was lots of reason to be confident he could be the answer next to Jarrod Hewitt impressing both his coaches and teammates while playing with more confidence.
Now, Crawford will have the chance to show the country whether he is as good as his JUCO productivity suggests he can be for the Hokies with the odds of that being a yes looking pretty good based on Fuente, Foster, and Hewitt's comments.