Sutton Smith, Joe Ostman, Anthony Winbush, and Maxx Crosby.
If you take every league’s 2017 first team all-conference defensive line, no unit will have more combined sacks than the Mid-American Conference’s four horsemen. Here at Hustle Belt, we call that SACKtion.
Only two of these four names return to college ball in 2018, including Eastern Michigan’s defensive end Maxx Crosby. Crosby can often be found terrorizing backfields, where he registered 11 sacks as a sophomore last fall, ranking sixth in the entire FBS. The 6’5” product from Colleyville, TX also compiled 16.5 tackles for loss, also ranking among the nation’s elite in the category.
After defensive end Pat O’Connor left Ypsilanti for Detroit in the 2017 NFL Draft, there was a large void to fill on the defensive line. Although he operates from the strong-side instead, Crosby seamlessly took over O’Connor’s role as the team’s quarterback hunter, effectively bringing them down and often knocking the ball loose too. He forced four fumbles in 2017, and scored one defensive touchdown in his breakout year.
On a midweek matchup against Central Michigan in Mt. Pleasant, Crosby completed the lineman trifecta. He sprints around the edge, grabs both of Shane Morris’ arms to hamper the Chippewa quarterback from completing the play, and scoops up the fumble he generated for six points.
Crosby weighs just 265 pounds, but as seen above, what he lacks in typical defensive lineman weight, he makes up for with his around-the-corner speed. Out-sprinting offensive linemen and gaining that extra step around the edge is his go-to move. Oftentimes, he can breeze by opposing linemen without even using force or a swim move.
And when he plunges into the backfield, he often brings the quarterback down within seconds, preventing any excess scrambling or last-second escapes. In addition to his masterful pass rushing techniques, his 6’5” frame comes in handy as well for tipping passes at the line of scrimmage.
In just two years as an Eagle, Crosby has accomplished about as much as any Eastern Michigan defender in the program’s history. As a freshman, he participated in the school’s first bowl appearance since 1987, albeit a close loss to Old Dominion in the Bahamas. In his sophomore campaign, he was one of three Eagles selected to the First Team All-MAC, along with wide receiver Sergio Bailey II and strong safety Brody Hoying.
There is a lot in store for Crosby in the future. He seems destined for another double-digit sack season, given his consistent performances last year, and could challenge for the FBS individual sack title. Only four players forced more fumbles than Crosby in 2017, so the Eastern Michigan star is already among the FBS’s elite across several statistical categories.
The Eagles finished 5-7 in 2017 but were a couple of bad breaks and inches away from possibly attaining 10 or 11 wins. Crosby’s turnover-inducing, momentum-stopping play style definitely kept Eastern Michigan within striking distance in some of those losses (i.e. Central Michigan, Toledo) and the defensive end’s performances should play a major role in the quest to return Eastern Michigan back to the postseason.