ASU’s Crosswell developing into leader after strong freshman season

Feb 13, 2019, 4:00 PM
Arizona State safety Aashari Crosswell (16) intercepts the football against Arizona in the second h...
Arizona State safety Aashari Crosswell (16) intercepts the football against Arizona in the second half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — If there’s any player on the ASU defense who was especially unhappy the 2018 season had to come to a close, it was Aashari Crosswell.

The freshman safety went on a tear at the end of the season, recording four interceptions in the team’s final five games to emerge as one of the Sun Devils’ top playmakers.

A quick turnaround to spring practice is helping alleviate any potential for lost momentum for Crosswell, who is developing into a defensive leader because of his strong finish.

“I got a lot on my plate right now because that’s what I did last year,” Crosswell said after practice Wednesday. “Right now, it’s a lot on me because [the coaches] expect a lot of things and have high expectations of me so I have to keep having that role of making plays.”

Crosswell said confidence and comfort were never concerns when he was thrust into the starting role in his first year in the program.

There were times when he struggled — Crosswell was called for two pass interference penalties and a holding penalty against Stanford — but never did it feel like he was overmatched despite his lack of experience.

Crosswell quickly showed he was opportunistic, as evidenced by the team-high four picks and nine pass breakups.

One of those interceptions came in the fourth quarter against Arizona and helped spur the double-digit fourth quarter comeback.

A strong self belief helped guide him through that initial year and the quick start into his second season as part of the ASU program.

Defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales calls Crosswell, a one-time four-star recruit, the Sun Devils’ most vocal player in the secondary.

“I always felt comfortable. I never felt like I was uncomfortable,” Crosswell said. “I just felt like certain plays, I didn’t do what I needed to do. It was just little things technique wise.”

A portion of Crosswell’s expanded leadership hopes this spring is learning to be more versatile as a safety.

He’s being shuffled all around the defense, from his typical Ranger spot to most recently the Tillman safety.

Gonzales said ASU can afford to become experimental with its most important players, like Crosswell, in the spring because he doesn’t have to worry about re-teaching much because of the quick turnaround.

“I feel like the coaches know what they’re doing and they know we need to improve so we need to start early, so I feel like this way is better,” Crosswell said. “I like how we started early because now we’re improving and getting where we need to be.”

Others in the secondary, like Chase Lucas, will help Crosswell lead but he’s got a specific plan on how he can stand out.

He wants to be ASU’s premier defensive playmaker and up his takeaway total each season.

“I always want to lead the team in picks,” Crosswell said. “I always want to have that mindset of being a dog and having that leadership and yes, always having that role as a player.”

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