Craighton hopes to best ranking

Alonzo Craighton, who signed Wednesday, is a two-star recruit.

Jack Satzinger

A few weeks before Alonzo Craighton’s sophomore season of high school football was supposed to begin, it ended.

The wiry defensive back from Louisiana was going through shuttle drills in practice when he tried to make a cut too quickly.

Snap.

The growth plate in his left ankle fractured, and he had to sit back and watch while coaches from touted schools came to recruit coveted teammate Justin Reid, who committed to Stanford over LSU and Notre Dame on Wednesday.

“They had a lot of coaches coming through, and a lot of coaches overlooked me because he was there,” Craighton said.

Because of the injury and the attention Reid commanded, Craighton ranked out as just a two-star recruit on recruiting website Rivals. Now, he hopes to be another Gophers recruit who proves rankings don’t matter.

“It makes me want to play better because I have something to prove,” Craighton said. “In my mind, I’m the best at everything I do.”

But college coaches didn’t agree. While some of the top programs wooed Reid, the younger brother of San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid, Craighton only tallied one offer from a Power 5 school.

Gophers defensive backs and special teams coach Jay Sawvel extended it.

“I’m glad Sawvel gave me a look and liked what he saw,” Craighton said. “He saw that I was a tall guy, that I had speed, that I could play the ball in the air.”

Craighton’s size is particularly intriguing, considering the Gophers are tabbing him as a cornerback.

He’s sprouted to 6 feet, 2 inches, and he is much longer than some of the touted cornerbacks on Minnesota’s roster, like Eric Murray (6 feet, 0 inches), Briean Boddy-Calhoun (5 feet, 11 inches) and Jalen Myrick (5 feet, 10 inches).

“I like his ball-hawking skills,” quarterback commit Demry Croft said. “The way he moves around the field is swift. I think he can really contribute to the team early.”

Though head coach Jerry Kill said Craighton’s ability to play any position in the defensive backfield furthered Minnesota’s interest in him, it really came down to a few simple attributes.

“Length and speed, length and speed,” Kill said. “And he’s physical.”

Several of Minnesota’s top defensive players last season —Damien Wilson, Cedric Thompson, Murray, Myrick and Cameron Botticelli — were also two-star recruits.

Though Craighton’s ankle injury may have prevented him from receiving a higher ranking, those players’ track records under Kill suggest he’ll be just fine.

“It was hard because honestly, I had the opportunity to play as a sophomore. It would have been amazing. I probably would have had a better ranking, and I probably would have had more offers,” Craighton said. “But everything happens for a reason, and that put me in the position I’m in right now.”