High School Sports

At Harding High, the nation’s No. 1 running back has one goal: Keep improving

Harding’s Quavaris Crouch looks forward to hard work and seeing the results

Top ranked running back recruit works to improve as football player and person
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Top ranked running back recruit works to improve as football player and person

There haven’t been too many football recruits in Mecklenburg County history as highly ranked as Harding High’s Quavaris Crouch.

When scout.com released its latest rankings last week for players in the class of 2019, it ranked Crouch as the nation’s No. 5 overall recruit and the top running back. The news didn’t surprise Harding coach Sam Greiner.

In May, Greiner predicted Crouch would be the No. 1 player in his class, regardless of position.

He missed it by just a few spots.

“Quavaris Crouch is a special guy,” Greiner said of the junior, who is 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds. “When he first came here as a freshman, I’m like, ‘So where are you transferring from?’ I thought he was in high school already. He was already a monster-sized guy then.”

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And if you want to know which colleges are recruiting him, a better question might be who isn’t. Crouch has more than 20 scholarship offers, including Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State, Texas and Texas A&M.

“This all hit pretty quick,” said Crouch, who has added more than a dozen college offers since the 2016 season ended in November. “I had a good season last year, so it didn’t shock me. I knew I put in the work, but it made me realize I could really go somewhere with football.

“Growing up, I never really watched college football, so it was all new to me. I just adapted and tried to not get the big head.

“I’m a very humble person and I’ve got two years before I can make a difference with anything in terms of schools, so I’m just weighing my options and talking to my family. A lot can change in two years. Coaches can leave. Schools can change. So I’m waiting it out.”

Harding running back Quavaris Crouch high steps into the end zone for a touchdown against West Charlotte last season. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

As a freshman, Crouch was a bright light on a 1-10 team, rushing for nearly 1,000 yards. But as a sophomore, he led Harding to its first playoff appearance in six years. Crouch ran for 1,364 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He was named the SoMeck 8 conference offensive player of the year.

He may be the No. 1 running back in the country, but I’m not sure that’s his best position. It’s probably what he’s done the most. But he’s heckuva linebacker, too. He’s just so aggressive.

Vance coach Aaron Brand on Harding junior RB Quavaris Crouch

As much as any Rams player, he’s a big reason Harding has gone from a virtual after-thought in local high school football circles to a team stocked with seven Division I recruits that could challenge for a conference championship in 2017.

“Oh man,” said Vance coach Aaron Brand. “He’s a good player. He looks the part, too. He’s such a strong runner. He gets after it. He’s aggressive. ... He’s like one of those old Alabama-type guys that just gets downhill on you. There’s not a lot of running around you. He’ll try to go through you.

“As the weather gets colder, and teams settle in with that running game, he’s a guy you hate facing in early November or late October when it starts getting a little nippy. He’s a thumper, man, and they’ve got him playing linebacker, too.

“He may be the No. 1 running back in the country, but I’m not sure that’s his best position. It’s probably what he’s done the most. But he’s a heckuva linebacker, too. He’s just so aggressive.”

Crouch, 17, is gifted athletically, with bulging round shoulders and the thick neck muscles you might associate with someone who spends considerable time in the weight room. Crouch is also blessed with good speed for an athlete his size. He was electronically timed at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash at a recent Nike combine.

“And man, a 4.6 laser is moving,” Greiner reminds you, with a hint of a smile. “He’s 6-2, 225 and the fastest guy on the field, with a willingness to work. He’s going to help lead us to the promised land next (season), and he is single-handedly phenomenal.

“I look at (new Jacksonville Jaquars running back) Leonard Fournette when he was in high school, and he was the No. 1 overall high school running back, and I think (Crouch) is better than him. I really do.”

Harding running back Quavaris Crouch has been ranked as the top running back recruit in the class of 2019. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Crouch played the final six games of his sophomore season with a torn ligament in his foot. Greiner still can’t believe how productive he was with the injury. Crouch is healthy now and ready for “a dominant junior season,” he says

In the weight room, Crouch has increased his squat lift to 500 pounds and his bench press to 350. He started lifting weights in seventh grade, working with his cousin, Marlon Dunlap, a former West Charlotte High defensive lineman now at North Carolina.

“His best attribute,” Greiner said, “is his willingness to work. He wants to be the greatest he possibly can be. But it’s not like he compares himself to Leonard Fournette or all these other guys. He wants to be the best Quavaris Crouch possible. That’s his most special attribute.”

As he enters a junior season in which he could run his way onto a list of all-time Mecklenburg County greats – running backs such as West Charlotte’s Brian Knuckles, Charlotte Catholic’s Elijah Hood and Myers Park’s Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick – Crouch said his wish list is short.

“I just want to be a better player, a better leader to keep people on track,” he said. “Our goal is to win a state championship. The only thing these other teams have on us is depth.

“Talent? We’ve got talent. I think we’ve got some of the most talented kids in North Carolina – six or seven Division I players right now. So talent is not an issue for us. I feel like we’re ready to make some noise.”

Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr