Davon Crookshank has spent his high school football career patterning his running style off Montee Ball. Now, Crookshank will have an opportunity to follow directly in Ball’s footsteps at the college level.
Crookshank, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound running back from Missouri City, Texas, verbally committed over the weekend to play football at the University of Wisconsin, where Ball once starred. In doing so, he became the first running back to commit to the Badgers in the Class of 2015.
"One of his favorite backs of all-time was Montee Ball," said Lloyd Banks, Crookshank’s running backs coach at Fort Bend Marshall High School. "So he was always fascinated with Wisconsin and with what they do offensively. He loves it."
Crookshank’s head coach, James Williams, added: "We told him that’s the kind of runner we wanted him to be. There are a lot of similarities in those two. Lloyd Banks always talks in practice or in games about running that way, downhill, make one cut and go."
If Crookshank approaches the success Ball achieved, it would be quite a college career.
Ball, the 2012 Doak Walker Award winner and a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist, is the NCAA’s career rushing touchdowns leader (83) and finished second in Wisconsin program history with 5,140 career rushing yards. The 5-foot-10, 215-pounder also averaged 5.6 yards per carry during his college career.
Crookshank ran for 1,095 yards and 18 touchdowns on 126 carries last season as a junior — a yards-per-carry average of 8.69. He has been a varsity player since his sophomore season, and his team is 21-4 over the past two years. Though the team runs a multiple spread offense, Williams said the team’s running plays were based off an inside zone scheme.
Williams called Crookshank "the complete package," while Banks described him as the perfect fit for Wisconsin’s offensive system, which has a history of turning running backs into college football stars.
"He is what you look for in a Wisconsin I-back," Banks said. "In a world of spread offenses and stretching the field sideline to sideline, he’s an old school I-back in the Wisconsin mold. Very fast. He was part of our 4 x 100 relay team down here, so he’s fast. Very physical. One of those running backs that is downhill. Always behind his shoulder pads, falling forward. Just a really good back. Awesome vision. He does a really good job of finding a hole and getting through."
Crookshank, a three-star tailback according Rivals.com and Scout.com, reportedly had scholarship offers from Kansas, Baylor, Colorado, Houston, Indiana, Memphis and Tulsa, in addition to Wisconsin.
Banks, a former SMU running back who has been an assistant coach at Marshall for four seasons, said he knew Crookshank would be a special tailback when he saw him play in eighth grade.
"I was like, ‘Oh my God, this kid is going to be a monster,’" Banks said. "He was doing things that I had to learn. I played football in college. The things I had to learn, he was doing naturally. Feeling the pressure for the holes and so on. Just natural running back instincts without being coached to do it."
Fort Bend Marshall has produced a great tailback before. Knile Davis, a 2009 graduate and University of Arkansas standout, was a third-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2013 NFL Draft. And if Crookshank wants to have similar success as Davis and Ball, Banks noted it begins with expanding his game.
"The No. 1 thing I always tell him is prepare yourself to be a better blocker," Banks said. "I tell him all the time. I don’t care how big, fast, strong you are, if you can’t block at the next level, you’re going to sit. Just overall, he needs get better at everything.
"But right now, he’s awesome. He needs to continue to get bigger, faster, stronger and continue being a student of the game and work his tail off."