ItâÄôs no secret that hype, speculation and star-based rating systems donâÄôt 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 âÄî a fairly objective attribute, and one certainly possessed by Edina senior wide receiver Devin Crawford-Tufts, who will play for the Gophers next year.
âÄúTremendous speed,âÄù Kill said of Crawford-Tufts at the coachâÄôs Feb. 2 signing day press conference. âÄú[IâÄôve] 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.âÄù
As a sprinter for EdinaâÄôs track team âÄî he will also run track at Minnesota âÄî 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.
âÄúAt first I actually started opening up my options with other schools,âÄù Crawford-Tufts said of the interim period between Brewster and Kill. âÄúI 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.âÄù
Crawford-Tufts said KillâÄôs approach to recruiting was more personal than BrewsterâÄôs 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 BrewsterâÄôs staff and that they were upfront and honest in recruiting BoltmannâÄôs players, BrewsterâÄôs 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.
âÄúAny young guy that youâÄôre going to bring in,âÄù Boltmann said, âÄúthey 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.âÄù
KillâÄôs 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.
âÄúIâÄôve been doing this [for] 25 years or so,âÄù Boltmann said, âÄúand heâÄôs the fastest athlete that IâÄôve ever been around.âÄù He later added, âÄúHe 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 whoeverâÄôs throwing the football to him.âÄù
If Crawford-Tufts wants to play right away, though, he will need to put on some weight and put in some work.
âÄúHeâÄôs going to have to mature and maybe get a little bit mentally tougher on the football field âÄ¦ when he gets rocked around by those guys that are playing Big Ten football going across the middle and that type of thing, thatâÄôs a wake-up call,âÄù Boltmann said.
As Kill said on signing day, all recruits are âÄúpaper tigersâÄù 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.