DURHAM When Jamison Crowder goes against the Cheetahs – Duke’s self-named coalition of defensive backs – the senior receiver often lends a hand to the young cub he just beat.
“He knows how to read the defense, so sometimes I sit with him and we talk about things like, ‘How did you know I was going to bite on that?’ ” redshirt sophomore defensive back DeVon Edwards said. “He does a good job of making us better.”
As he enters his senior season, Crowder has a chance to leave Duke as the most accomplished receiver in school history. He needs 86 catches and 1,153 receiving yards to break Duke and ACC records – two figures he topped last year (a league-record 108 receptions for 1,360 yards).
He has a professional future, but Crowder hasn’t given much thought to that. When told last year that the media would ask him after the final game if he planned on coming back, he was genuinely puzzled as to why that would be.
So, during the summer, Crowder did what he always does: he went to work on his craft. Before the first practice of the fall, he detailed his points of emphasis.
“Just working on getting explosive, a lot more explosive,” he said. “I did workouts with (strength coach Noel) Durfey, team workouts, extra work with (quarterback) Anthony Boone and (running back) Josh Snead just to sharpen up my skills. I tried to work on my core strength.
“Now I’m ready to get the results from all the hard work I put in.”
Boone and Crowder live about 10 minutes apart in the greater Charlotte area, so meeting up this summer was easy. Sometimes they would go to Boone’s alma mater, Weddington, and sometimes Crowder’s old stomping grounds in Monroe. Other times they’d loop in sophomore cornerback Bryon Fields and head to Providence Day.
“It’s tough,” Fields said of going against Crowder. “He’s so explosive, and his acceleration is crazy.”
A win in a one-on-one battle with Crowder is a real confidence-booster, Fields said. Talks with former Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell, a fourth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills, reinforced that.
“I was talking to Ross Cockrell and he was working out pre-draft with some of those big-name receivers,” Fields said (Southern California’s Marqise Lee was among them). “And he said he didn’t think any of them were as good as Jamison.”
Boone pointed to Crowder’s feet as a separator between him and other talented receivers.
“He doesn’t have to overpower guys with his strength because his feet, quickness and change of direction is so good and so different than every other player in the country,” Boone said. “He can run routes with just his feet and not worry about using his hands as much as a lot of other guys might have to.”
At 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Crowder isn’t going to wow anyone with his size. He points to the St. Louis Rams’ 2013 first-round draft pick, Tavon Austin, as an example of a successful smaller receiver and return man. That’s the kind of player Crowder wants to be.
In the meantime, he’ll spend the next month frustrating and teaching the Cheetahs.
“When he beats us,” Edwards said, “He talks with us and jokes with us, like, ‘When are y’all going to cover me?’ ”
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