It’s no secret that hype, speculation and star-based rating systems don’t carry much weight with Jerry Kill when it comes to recruiting.
Kill has also made it clear, though, that to succeed in the Big Ten, the Gophers will need speed — a fairly objective attribute, and one certainly possessed by Edina senior wide receiver Devin Crawford-Tufts, who will play for the Gophers next year.
“Tremendous speed,” Kill said of Crawford-Tufts at the coach’s Feb. 2 signing day press conference. “[I’ve] been able to watch him on film, plus on track film and know his track times. [He is] one of the fastest people in the state.”
As a sprinter for Edina’s track team — he will also run track at Minnesota — Crawford-Tufts won the Minnesota Class 2A championship in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes last spring, also finishing runner-up in the long jump.
On the football field, Crawford-Tufts led the Hornets with 35 receptions for 540 yards and six touchdowns.
Originally recruited by ousted coach Tim Brewster, Crawford-Tufts had verbally committed to Minnesota before Brewster was shown the door.
Though he got a late start on the recruiting trail, Kill quickly reached out to Crawford-Tufts, whose speed and skill had not gone unnoticed by other potential Big Ten suitors.
“At first I actually started opening up my options with other schools,” Crawford-Tufts said of the interim period between Brewster and Kill. “I know I had already committed, but I told other schools that it would all kind of depend on who the Gophers hired. So I started looking around at Michigan State and Wisconsin and all the other schools, but as soon as they hired Kill I kind of knew that I was going to go to the U.”
Crawford-Tufts said Kill’s approach to recruiting was more personal than Brewster’s and that Kill seemed to focus more on how Crawford-Tufts would fit in with the program as an individual.
Edina coach Reed Boltmann said that while he established good relationships with Brewster’s staff and that they were upfront and honest in recruiting Boltmann’s players, Brewster’s revolving door of coordinators and assistants proved to be the fatal flaw with his program.
Throughout his career, Kill has not had this problem. Most of the coaches on his staff have worked under him already, several for 10 years or more, which Boltmann said bodes well for Crawford-Tufts and the rest of the Gophers.
“Any young guy that you’re going to bring in,” Boltmann said, “they need to have an established program. They need to see that the coordinators have their stuff together. They want to see confidence in the coaching staff, they want to see continuity; they want to see a plan.”
Kill’s plan for Crawford-Tufts is to put his speed to use as a wide receiver. Officially, he runs the 40-yard dash in a crisp 4.4 seconds, though Boltmann insists the more accurate number is closer to 4.3.
“I’ve been doing this [for] 25 years or so,” Boltmann said, “and he’s the fastest athlete that I’ve ever been around.” He later added, “He can outrun some guys, and even those good [Big Ten] corners, a lot of those guys do not have the flat-out, straight-ahead foot speed that Devin has, so hopefully that will bode well for MarQueis [Gray] or whoever’s throwing the football to him.”
If Crawford-Tufts wants to play right away, though, he will need to put on some weight and put in some work.
“He’s going to have to mature and maybe get a little bit mentally tougher on the football field … when he gets rocked around by those guys that are playing Big Ten football going across the middle and that type of thing, that’s a wake-up call,” Boltmann said.
As Kill said on signing day, all recruits are “paper tigers” until they prove themselves on the field. However, as far as paper tigers go, Crawford-Tufts is a fast one who knows how to catch the football and appears ready to succeed at the next level.