We’re less than 40 days from the start of the 2013 college football season, and that means preview countdowns! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.
Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
Former top receiver Conner Vernon was the star of the Duke offense, and rightfully so. But in focusing on the ACC’s all-time leading receiver last season, you end up forgetting about Crowder, who’s a force in his own right. Just a sophomore in 2012, Crowder racked up 1,074 yards on 76 catches, along with eight touchdowns. And he even got to play hero for a few seconds too, catching the game-winning score against North Carolina that secured the Blue Devils’ bowl eligibility. That was all well and good — obviously he was happy to pay his dues and win six games… those are all positives. But now, Crowder has a real opportunity to become one of the ACC’s best receivers in his own right.
As the top receiving option on Duke now, it’ll be interesting to see how Crowder responds to the added spotlight and responsibility that comes with that. It’s not outlandish to say his breakout season in 2012 was greatly assisted by another top option (Vernon) lining up on the opposite side of the field. So what happens now that he’s the primary receiver? And in the same vein, how does he help along the development of new quarterback Anthony Boone? His 4.6-second 40-yard dash time will pay big dividends, but his lack of size (5’9″ and 175 pounds) allows some doubts to creep in. As one of the smaller players on the field in most situations, Crowder has mismatches to worry about all over the field, from linebackers that outweigh him by 70 or 80 pounds, to even defensive backs who’ve got four or five inches on him.
Thus far, those concerns appear to be in the background, though. Crowder’s appeared on the Biletnikoff Award watch list already and was named to Phil Steele’s All-ACC team as well. Now that he’s getting the recognition though, he has to start delivering immediately. The only way Duke continues their upward climb from the bottom of the FBS barrel is by maintaining the level of offense fans have now become accustomed to in Durham. That starts with Crowder, who appears ready to take the leap to stardom this fall.