Following a successful first week of spring camp, Texas football is now off for spring break starting on March 13. Texas and head coach Steve Sarkisian took part in three of what will be 15 spring practices last week. That included the first day of full-pads practice on March 10.
We’ve discussed plenty of nuggets and early takeaways from the first week of spring ball for the Longhorns. One of the overarching storylines we discussed throughout the first week of spring practice was the new and preexisting injuries that the Longhorns are dealing with.
One of the more significant players that are still dealing with an injury issue this spring, which is limiting him in practice, is the former Arkansas Razorbacks senior transfer safety Jalen Catalon. The grad transfer Catalon is still dealing with an upper-body injury stemming from his time last season at Arkansas.
In his place at boundary safety, fellow senior defensive back Kitan Crawford is getting a lot of the first-team reps in practice. Crawford is getting the bulk of the first-team reps at boundary safety alongside fellow senior safety Jerrin Thompson early this spring.
This is a big opportunity for Crawford to prove that he is ready to legitimately contribute on a consistent basis as a key part of the two-deep at the safety position in his fourth year on campus.
Texas football S Kitan Crawford displaying “early improvement” in his fourth spring camp on the 40
Inconsistencies have plagued Crawford’s time on the Forty Acres in the last three seasons. Despite arriving on campus in 2020 as a highly touted blue-chip cornerback recruit, Crawford has yet to find a sustained home at one position for multiple years.
Crawford played his true freshman campaign as a rotational cornerback deeper down the depth chart at the position. Just one season into his collegiate career, though, Crawford would start to be cross-trained at the safety position heading into the 2021 campaign.
At the time, new DC Pete Kwiatkowski and safeties coach Blake Gideon seemingly started to find a home at the safety position for Crawford. He made some noise during the 2021 offseason as someone who could be a fast riser at safety coming out of camp.
But Crawford still had a limited role during the 2021 season, getting fewer than 100 defensive snaps over the course of just three games played.
It wasn’t until the 2022 campaign that we really saw Crawford get legitimate rotational live-game reps in Texas’ secondary. Crawford got more than 200 defensive snaps for the first time in his collegiate career last season as the backup at boundary safety behind senior Anthony Cook.
And while Crawford did have some struggles in terms of his on-field performance last fall, he did show that he was finally making some progress up the safety depth chart. Crawford showed that he can be one of the more consistent run-stoppers and sure tacklers at safety for the Longhorns last season.
He graded out as one of the three best tacklers for the Longhorns’ defense last season, and he didn’t miss a single tackle in nearly 80 snaps in run defense (while registering three combined tackles on run plays).
The strides Crawford made in terms of his ability to hold his own in run defense and as someone that can contest space and make the necessary tackles in the open field make him someone that is an intriguing spring riser among the upperclassmen in camp this offseason. As long as Crawford is able to continue to take the necessary steps to become a more consistent force in pass coverage, he will be someone to keep an eye on as a legitimate rotational boundary safety coming out of camp.
And it sounds like he is certainly on the right track to lock down his spot on the two-deep this spring at boundary safety. According to a report from Eric Nahlin of Inside Texas on March 13 (paid content), Crawford’s “understanding has improved and it’s showing on the field” early this spring.
Texas’ coaches are also reportedly “pleased with the early improvement” that Crawford is showing this spring while Catalon is limited in drills due to injury.
Crawford is apparently showing early this spring that he is settling into his role at boundary safety more seamlessly than he did in the last couple of years. And given the plethora of positional and scheme changes that Crawford has dealt with during his three or four years at Texas, it’s understandable that he’s taken some time to get truly acclimated in terms of his understanding of the concepts at safety.
Texas wrapped up the first practice of spring camp on March 6. Crawford and the Longhorns will get back to Denius Fields for drills following the week of spring break on March 20. And then, the Longhorns will play in the annual Orange-White spring football game at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on April 15.