Crawford knows a thing or two about coaching good wide receivers. The past two seasons he was on the sidelines in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers had the nation’s best passing offense in 2021 and second-best passing attack in 2002.
In both those years, Crawford coached 1,000-yard pass catchers in Jerreth Stearns, Mitchell Tinsley and Malachi Corley. Tech, conversely, hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Demaryius Thomas finished with 1,154 yards in 2009.
“Coach Crawford chew us out every chance he get, I’m not going to lie,” Tech sophomore Malik Rutherford said. “He’ll show your good plays, but he’s going to make sure he get the bad plays. But at the end of the day, he’s just making us better. He try not to show the good plays because of course that’s what he expects out of us. The things we do that are wrong, he just needs us to, basically, just correct it. One thing he always says is you should never make the same mistake twice. I feel like all the receivers in the (group), we try to be consistent.
“Being consistent is a big thing for him because being consistent, it shows that he can trust you on the field and in the game.”
Rutherford began to make his mark last season as a secondary target. Still looking for his first career touchdown catch, Rutherford totaled 225 yards in 2022, the most by any returning Tech wide receiver.
Coach Brent Key turned to the transfer portal in the offseason to give Rutherford some support and to give Faulkner and Weinke’s offense more weaponry.
Dominick Blaylock moved in from Georgia. Chase Lane came from Texas A&M. Christian Leary is a former Alabama wideout. Abdul Janneh had a team-high 43 catches for 579 yards at Duquesne last season.
All four of those transfers figure to be in the mix for starting roles for the Yellow Jackets, along with junior Avery Boyd.
“We got multiple guys who can stretch the field,” Leary said. “Just knowing there’s a guy to the left and right of me who can run just as fast is a good thing. Multiple weapons are across the field.”
If Crawford, a former walk-on running back at Morehouse, and the coaching staff can’t get consistent play out of any of the aforementioned wideouts, freshmen Zion Taylor and Eric Singleton could be the answers. What Taylor, from Norcross High, and Singleton, from Alexander High, lack in college experience, both make up for with their speed and playmaking ability.
Crawford also highlighted walk-on Bailey Stockton, from Prince Avenue Christian School, among freshmen turning heads.
“Beyond strength in numbers, the youth moment, I’m really excited just about the potential of this current group, but then also the future of the wide receiver position,” Crawford said. “(Singleton and Taylor) are two that have come in here, and they have really caught everyone’s eye. They make plays, they’re fast, they can run, they’re very versatile.
“In the future those are going to be names that the Tech community hears early and often.”