WVU Back Has Added Weight, Durability Ahead of 2017 Campaign
By Brian McCracken
Every summer, fans and media alike seem to get caught up in the same cookie cutter quotes about how players are bigger, stronger and faster than they have ever been before. Proclamations such as “this is the best offseason I have ever had” or “I’m a completely different player” get thrown around far too often, but in the case of Justin Crawford, those statements are undeniably true.
For the first time in his collegiate career the senior running back benefited from a Power 5 level strength and conditioning program for an entire offseason, a fact that shouldn’t be lost as the Mountaineers are just over a month away from the onset of fall camp.
Crawford’s first two years of college eligibility were spent on the campus of Northwest Mississippi Community College as he earned juco all-American honors (twice) and eventually fell into the lap of West Virginia’s coaching staff after the departure of Wendell Smallwood. His speed and god given talent were enough to elevate him past the majority of his competition, but the facilities and S&C programs offered at junior colleges are often woefully inadequate compared to those in major Division 1 college football.
“I didn’t have the same level of help that we have now,” admitted Crawford. “I didn’t have the technology that tracks how much sleep we get and how our bodies recover and things of that nature. In juco I didn’t have any of this technology. You go to sleep on your own time, you get up and you go to practice.”
Crawford didn’t arrive in Morgantown until June, giving him little time to catch up to his peers. But that didn’t stop him from learning on the fly as he put together a 1,184 yard campaign. In fact, the only thing that slowed the junior’s stats were nagging injuries towards the end of the season.
In 2017 Crawford hopes some added muscle will help prevent such injuries from occurring. For the last several months he has worked closely with strength coach Mike Joseph to add roughly five pounds of muscle to his frame, something that initially may not sound like a lot but should go a long way in keeping him on the field.
“(The offseason) is very helpful. You can’t get this back. If you miss it then you’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity to put that stress on your body that you need to help you prevent injuries.”
Crawford’s target playing weight is around 205 pounds, a number he has almost reached. For the next month he will continue to work with his running back group and Joseph as he puts the finishing touches on a productive 2017 offseason.
“I have to just stay humble and keep working. I can’t let (the preseason notoriety) get to my head. Everything that’s given to you can be taken away. I just try to do extra. I do the mandatory stuff that we’re supposed to do – keep my body in tip top condition, try to recover, stay hydrated and do the right things.”