After Michigan won a recruiting war with Ohio State, Shawn Crable came to Ann Arbor with the highest of expectations. The Massillon, Ohio, native was touted as the No. 2 weakside defensive end by Rivals.com and the No. 7 outside linebacker by SuperPrep.
Three years after coming to Michigan with fellow Ohio native Prescott Burgess, Crable is finally beginning to live up to the accolades he received in high school. One reason it took the redshirt sophomore so long to see significant playing time is his size. His high school rankings show, at least partially, why he hadn’t seen playing time until this season. Crable appears too big for linebacker but too small for a defensive end. But no matter what his position, Crable’s athleticism and playmaking ability ensured that the coaches couldn’t keep him on the bench.
Against Northwestern, Crable showed what a player with his rare talents can do.
He lined up primarily on passing downs in the interior line, but Crable didn’t have his hand down like a defensive lineman. At the snap, he would either stunt and rush the quarterback or drop back into pass coverage. With his speed and quickness, Crable did both well, notching three tackles – including a huge sack on Wildcats quarterback Brett Basanez and a quarterback hurry.
“I give a lot of (credit) to my coaches and them believing in me that I can perform,” said Crable of getting a chance to play more.
Coming into the season, many expected Crable to play a huge role in retooling a defense that struggled at the end of last year. But after fall camp broke, he wasn’t playing as well as some, including coach Lloyd Carr, expected. Near the middle of fall camp, Carr let it be known that he was not happy with how Crable was performing, saying that the player needed to step up.
Crable must have done something differently because for the last two games, he has played a significant role in containing Iowa and Northwestern.
“He didn’t get to play much early because he didn’t have a very good fall, and I was disappointed in him,” Carr said. “But these last two weeks he, both in practice and in the games, has made a difference at a time when we needed him to give us some substantial effort. And he has done that.”
In both games, Crable was all over the field. Last Saturday, Crable tackled Basanez on one play, then dropped him for a 15-yard sack two plays later. It was just the sixth sack the Wildcats had given up all year. Then early in the fourth quarter while in coverage, Crable sniffed out a bubble screen and stopped receiver Mark Philmore for a one-yard gain.
“We just try to mix it up and confuse people,” Crable said. “We try to make them think I’m coming and I’m not, make them think I’m standing in this gap and not, just that type of thing.”
At this point, Crable has played more of a specialist role, but that doesn’t bother him. He says he’s happy that he’s finally getting a chance to really show what he can do.
“I don’t really know what I’m going to do,” Crable said. “If I was (a) safety I wouldn’t care. I don’t care. It’s just whatever they give me a chance to do.”