The affable, 6-foot-5, 273-pound native of London appears ready to return to the form of 2009, when he was one of the Big Ten's rising young talents, starting with Saturday's season opener against Indiana State at Beaver Stadium.
"I feel great," he said. "I feel like it's all there now. Early in camp, I was looking at myself on tape because you think you're pushing off, but sometimes you can't tell. But after I looked at tape, I felt really confident in how I was moving."
The Nittany Lions hope that the senior, who lives in Longport, N.J., can lead a unit that underachieved in pass rushing last season. The Lions finished with just 17 sacks in 13 games, less than half of their 37 sacks the year before.
Their top sack man from last year, defensive end Pete Massaro (Marple Newtown), will sit out the season recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery.
Crawford, who had 5.5 sacks as a sophomore, good for 10th in the Big Ten, picked up just two last season. He injured his foot in the Big Ten opener against Iowa and missed the next three games. He finished out the final five but didn't play up to his normal standards and admitted he made "a mistake in coming back so soon before I thought I was ready."
"Really, I think it made the injury worse at the time," he said. "So that's why I decided ultimately to get the surgery, because I didn't want to have to deal with the problems anymore. I wanted to be 100 percent."
Doctors inserted two screws into Crawford's foot during surgery. One was removed eight weeks after the operation, the other came out about a week after preseason camp began, a procedure that kept him out of practice for a few days.
Crawford's next-door neighbor on the defensive line also is happy to see him back and playing well.
"He's been playing real good, the best I've seen since '09," defensive tackle Jordan Hill said. "With any type of injury as a defensive end, it's going to tweak your game a lot, and that's a problem if it's a foot because you have to push off. But right now he's looking real good."
Crawford will be entering his sixth year of organized football. He came from England in 2005 with the intention of playing basketball, but took up football the following year and loved it.
After two excellent seasons at St. Augustine as a defensive end and tight end, Crawford headed to Happy Valley and played in every game as a true freshman.
Now, after recuperating and working with former Lions great Tamba Hali on form and technique at defensive end, Crawford wants to make his final season a memorable one.
"In my mind, there is no doubt" he feels like himself again, he said. "I can completely focus on this season."
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org.