Brandon Crawford jumped into the spotlight last year in a way few true freshmen are able to.
The defensive end had a sack that resulted in a forced fumble against San Diego State in the opening minutes of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
As Crawford enters this season attempting to fill the void left by departed pass rushers Colby Way and Khalil Mack, this is likely the play that stands out the most for UB fans when thinking of Crawford.
In the first few weeks of training camp, Crawford has shown his coaches he’s capable of making plays like that consistently.
He’s pushed his way into the starting lineup, literally. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound sophomore has proven to be one of the team’s strongest players.
“Brandon brings and incredible amount of strength believe it or not, compacted in a smaller body," defensive line coach Chris Cosh said. “He’s real sudden, has great initial quickness. He has the mixture of being a good run-stopper and pass rusher.”
Unlike some of his counterparts, Crawford began serious a weight-training regimen in high school. The Florida native has always taken a special interest in weight lifting. He even joined his high school’s lift team, partially to supplement football, but also because he enjoyed having another sport to compete in so much.
“At my high school, we were really big on lifting weights for football. I just started liking it and I learned we had an actual weight-lifting team," Crawford said. “I thought I would join and compete in that. I’m a competitor so I just like to compete in everything that I do.”
Crawford did both the bench and power clean and jerk for his high school team. After a full offseason of training with the Buffalo staff, he’s now up to 430 pounds for the bench press and can squat 600.
“When you’re on the field, you need strong hips, you need strong legs," Crawford said. “With the bench press, it helps on the defensive line when you have to press people out and move them back off the line of scrimmage.
Cosh knows there’s a difference between being strong and knowing how to use your strength on the football field. He believes Crawford has both attributes.
“I think his weightlifting is where he gets his suddenness and strength," Cosh said. “Sometimes you don’t always see it translate onto the field, but you see it with him.”
Crawford is stronger than he’s ever been, which he believes has translated to his early on-field success. He’s one of only three true sophomores expected to earn a starting job out of camp (joining linebacker Jarrett Franklin and wide receiver Boise Ross).
His fellow defensive lineman – namely Kristjan Sokoli and Tedroy Lynch – have played a major role in getting Crawford ready to be on the field.
“Some of my teammates, they’ve been working with me,” Crawford said. “They’re starters this year and they want me to play. Wanting to play with them is a motivation in itself.”