Eighth in a series of stories featuring the best high school football players by position. Today, Maliki Crawford, defensive back of Oxnard Pacifica.
Maliki Crawford’s 79-inch arm span isn’t quite the Wandering Albatross’ 12.1-foot wingspan, but don’t tell receivers trying to catch passes after using his range to make a diversion.
Those long arms help make him the rarest of cornerbacks, along with another unique physical trait – his height of 6ft 4in.
He smiles and laughs when asked if he thinks he’s too big to play cornerback.
“I don’t know what to say about this issue,” he said. “I only play football.”
Crawford’s long arms, agility, quickness and athleticism have warned receivers that he is a defensive back ready to be tested and challenged, determined not to back down from anyone.
“I found myself having to prove myself, which is cool,” he said. “I have no problem with that.”
Crawford’s size is so intriguing that there are endless possibilities as to what he could accomplish in football if he continues to prove he can cover receivers of all shapes and sizes.
“A lot of people don’t think we can back down,” Crawford said.
College recruiters offered Crawford a variety of observations. Some think his size could make him a very good security. Others think that as long as his mobility continues to improve, he’ll be a hot cornerback. He ended up committing to USC this month.
Bucky Brooks, the Granada Hills High football coach and former NFL defensive back, said Crawford’s size will cause a lot of debate and discussion. One of the few 6-4 cornerbacks to excel in the NFL was Brandon Browner. One of the best corners is 6-3 Richard Sherman.
“At 6-4, you’re salivating,” Brooks said. “His features make him an intriguing prospect.”
Brooks said as long as Crawford’s agility continues to improve, he’ll be in high demand to cover the big, athletic receivers who are starting to take over the professional game.
“I’ll say this – any cornerback over 6 feet tall is really coveted,” Brooks said. “A child who is 6-4 years old would be attractive if he has motor skills. You just don’t get guys with that kind of length.
Pacifica coach Mike Moon said another positive for Crawford was his willingness to listen to coaches.
“He’s a great boy,” Moon said. “He just wants to grow, learn and develop.”
Another advantage for Crawford is that he can use his physicality to delay smaller receivers from executing their pattern, pinning them down at the line of scrimmage while allowing time for defensive linemen to get to the quarterback before anyone is open.
“Going into this season, my goal is to have double-digit interceptions,” he said.
His profile should rise as Pacifica should be one of the best teams in Ventura County and have a long winning streak if the Tritons get past their first two opponents, Westlake Village Westlake and Ventura St. Bonaventure.
Whatever happens, it will be fun to watch Crawford use his unique size to test himself against a variety of receivers trying to find ways to escape his shadow.
Defensive backs to watch
Name, School, Ht, Wt, Year, Comment
Daylen Austin, Long Beach Poly, 6-2, 180, Sr. — LSU’s commitment follows long tradition of top Poly cornerbacks
Sean Brown, Simi Valley, 6-3, 195, Sr. — Arizona’s commitment has excellent agility for its size
Zabien Brown, Santa Ana Mater Dei, 6-2, 180, Jr. – He will be counted on to perform at the highest level
Maliki Crawford, Oxnard Pacifica, 6-4, 180, Sr. – Size, athleticism, instincts make him unique
Vincent Holmes, San Jacinto, 6-2, 170, Sr. — Washington’s commitment has speed, strength
Marquis Gallegos, West Hills Chaminade, 6-1, 170, Jr. — Had four interceptions as a sophomore
Ty Lee, Bellflower St. John Bosco, 6-3, 190, Sr. — UCLA commitment has safe closing speed
Christian Pierce, Rancho Cucamonga, 6-2, 170, Sr. — USC’s commitment is the hitter at safety
Rodrick Pleasant, Gardena Serra, 5-11, 180, Sr. — Fastest in California and can’t be beat
Peyton Woodyard, St. John Bosco, 6-2, 188, Jr. — Security with character, tenacity, speed
Tomorrow: Aidan Flintoft, Christian punter and kicker from Westlake Village Oaks.