ATHENS – Thanks to the modern miracle of hudl.com, there is no shortage of highlight videos for football prospects out there on the world wide web. But it would be hard to find any more scintillating than those posted by Ahkil Crumpton this past fall at Los Angeles Valley Community College.
There is video after video and frame after frame of Crumpton making all kinds of crazy, long runs. Most of them came on kick returns, though some of them came on the pass receptions and a few other on handoffs or tosses. But there was general theme to all of them: this little dude is fast and hard to tackle and covered a lot of ground in junior college.
It looked remarkably similar to the video footage produced by one Isaiah McKenzie at American Heritage High and, to a lesser degree, later at UGA. In fact, the physical resemblance of Crumpton to McKenzie is uncanny.
Clearly it’s a comparison neither he nor Georgia chooses to shy away from. Crumpton is wearing the same No. 16 jersey only recently abandoned by McKenzie.
There certainly is a lot of evidence that Crumpton could be the second-coming of McKenzie for Georgia. Fans should probably let him play a few FBS games first before anointing him “Joystick II.” But his statistics last year in junior college are absolutely eye-popping.
According to his coach at Los Angeles Valley Community College, Matt White, Crumpton returned kicks to the tune of 1,004 yards and 6 touchdowns last year. That’s 16 kickoffs for 690 yards (or 41.3 yards per return) and 10 punts for 314 yards (31.4). Three scores each came on punts and kickoffs.
Crumpton also played receiver for the Monarchs. He had 41 catches for 477 yards
So that’s impressive. But how does the California Community College Athletic Association compare to the SEC?
“That’s a tough one,” White said. “But I think Ahkil is a special kid. I think he can do it and I think they think he can do it or else he wouldn’t be there. I’ve worked at a couple of Division I schools in the strength and conditioning area and I know he has SEC caliber strength and explosiveness off the field. On the field, his tape speaks for itself.”
What’s important now is what Crumpton’s new coach thinks. And Georgia coach Kirby Smart made it clear what drew the Bulldogs to this diminutive athlete playing on the other side of the country.
“We combed the country looking for an elite returner,” he said before Monday’s practice, the first of 29 in preseason camp. “We didn’t feel like we had an elite returner. We really don’t have any experienced returners because we lost two guys (McKenzie and Reggie Davis). You know Isaiah had done it so long and we weren’t really expecting to lose him. So when that situation arises, you try to fix your roster as fast as you can.”
So there was Crumpton on Monday, on the practice field just days after flying in from Los Angeles. White said his star receiver recently passes a business calculus class and that’s what he needed to obtain his academic eligibility at Georgia.
Otherwise, he said, Crumpton likely would have been heading to Utah State or Temple. At one time he was a commitment to UC-Davis.
At Monday’s practice, Crumpton was working at the same slot position as Terry Godwin and Mecole Hardman. He’s listed on Georgia’s new roster as 5-foot-9, 175 pounds. But he looks even smaller than that, and certainly smaller than those two players. White says Crumpton probably weighs 160 pounds. But he also said Crumpton can squat 500 pounds, an amazing feat on such spindly legs.
More than likely, though, Crumpton’s contributions this season will come primarily on special teams. Having been in town only a few days, he’ll be way behind on the offensive playbook. However, he’ll definitely compete immediately for kick-return duties with Godwin and Hardman.
“I have no concerns about Terry … catching the ball; it’s still to be determined whether he’s an elite returner,” Smart said of Godwin, who had one kickoff return for 43 yards last year and four punt returns for 58 yards as a freshman. “We’re going to give him an opportunity to compete for that position. That’s one of the things special teams-wise we’re trying to do different this camp. We’re probably going to do some live returns to find out (about) those guys. We can’t test them September 2. We’ve got to find out before then.”
Hardman is another factor in the returns game. He had only one 17-yard kickoff return as a freshman, though he lined up back there a few more times. He has not returned a punt in a game.
Hardman, who was recruited to Georgia to play cornerback, switched to receiver full time during spring practice. To date, this former 5-star has recorded only 6 tackles and one kick return in 11 games. The Bulldogs obviously hope to get more out of him this season.
The comparisons between Crumpton and McKenzie are inevitable. But Georgia doesn’t mind them. It was one of the few FBS schools willing to extend McKenzie an offer and that risk paid off handsomely.
“Our kid has more of a track background, he’s probably a little faster,” White said of Crumpton. “McKenzie’s probably a little quicker, a little shiftier. But I think he’s why Georgia was willing to take (Crumpton). It had to be the right fit at the right time and Georgia was. For them to take him that let’s you know he’s pretty special.”
Said Smart: “Does he remind you of Isaiah? I think that’s hard because we’re just now laying our eyes on him. You know, we really haven’t been able to see him other than tape. So, I would be remiss to say now. I’ve got to wait and see how practice goes and we put the pads on. He’s built similar. Isaiah’s pretty good, by the way.”
As for highlight tapes, it’s at least a draw.