In just 26 games at the university, Crabtree rewrote school and Big 12 Conference records, while also etching his name in the NCAA books. His success on the football field saw him receive Fred Biletnikoff Award honors in each of his two college seasons. A model of consistency, he put together a string of 13 consecutive games with at least one touchdown and five receptions, tying an NCAA mark.
Crabtree’s 231 receptions in his first two seasons topped the old college record of 227 catches over a two-year span that was previously held by Nevada’s Alex Van Dyke (1994-95). He ranks tied for sixth in NCAA annals with 41 touchdown catches, an average of 1.58 scores per game. That total also set a collegiate record for most touchdowns during a two-year span, surpassing the previous mark of 34 scoring catches by Larry Fitzgerald of Pittsburgh (2002-03).
Being a featured receiver was something new for Crabtree when he arrived at Texas Tech. During his prep days at Carter High School, he competed as a quarterback, where he was ranked as the nation’s 16th-best overall athlete and received a four-star rating from Rivals.com. The member of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Fab 44 team, he also earned All-Area accolades from the Dallas Morning News.
Crabtree threw for 870 yards and 11 touchdowns on 45 of 100 passing in his final season. That year, he also ran for 646 yards and nine touchdowns on 100 carries. As a junior, he completed 30 of 67 passes for 897 yards and eight touchdowns with just one interception.
In addition to excelling in football, Crabtree was also a nationally-ranked basketball player at Carter High. He was rated among the top 50 hoops prospects in the state and received several scholarship offers in that sport from major colleges.
However, Crabtree was determined to play football, accepting a scholarship from Texas Tech while bypassing offers from Baylor, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Kansas. He spent the 2006 season performing on the scout team, acclimating to life as a wide receiver. He was on a two-sport scholarship, but dropped basketball due to the grueling football schedule.
Texas Tech featured three seniors ahead of Crabtree on its 2006 depth chart entering fall drills, but the redshirt freshman beat out Joel Filani for the “Z” receiver position, starting every game. He earned Biletnikoff Award honors, given to the nation’s top receiver, the first time a freshman ever captured that award. The unanimous All-American and All-Big 12 Conference first-team choice set NCAA freshman records, leading the nation with 134 receptions for 1,962 yards (14.6 avg) and 22 touchdowns, as he also led the major college ranks with an average of 10.31 receptions and 150.92 yards receiving per game.
While Crabtree did not match his lofty 2007 totals in 2008, he still had a banner sophomore campaign. He was again the Biletnikoff Award recipient, in addition to garnering first-team All-American and All-Big 12 recognition. He ranked sixth in the nation with a team-high 97 receptions, good for 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns, despite battling late season ankle issues.
Attended Carter (Dallas) High School, playing football for head coach Allen Wilson…Competed as a quarterback, where he was ranked as the nation’s 16th-best overall athlete and received a four-star rating from Rivals.com…Member of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Fab 44 team…Earned All-Area accolades from the Dallas Morning News…Threw for 870 yards and 11 touchdowns on 45-of-100 passing in his final season…That year, he also ran for 646 yards and nine touchdowns on 100 carries…As a junior, he completed 30-of-67 passes for 897 yards and eight touchdowns with just one interception…Also a nationally-ranked basketball player…Rated among the top 50 hoops prospects in the state and received several scholarship offers in that sport from major colleges.
Positives: Ultra-productive, competitive playmaker with prototypical size. Excellent hands; snatches the ball from the air within or outside his body. Secures the ball quickly in his strong hands after the catch. Uses his size, initial quickness and hands to get inside or outside separation off the line of scrimmage. Runs quick slants and has the suddenness to take the route upfield. Excellent body control to high-point the ball in traffic, adjust to any poor throw, tiptoe on the sideline and find his way through creases. Can turn his man out, plant and get the inside shoulder, giving the quarterback a big target down the seam. Quick to stop and adjust for the ball behind him, whether purposely or not. Used outside, in the slot and even in the backfield at times. Always tries to make a play after the catch, keeping his legs moving when tackled low, stiff-arming smaller defenders on the run and extending the ball to get to the first down or goal line. Rubs defenders for other receivers. Displays a good attitude and appears to be a solid teammate without major ego issues.
Negatives: March surgery to fix a stress fracture in his left foot will prevent Crabtree from running for scouts leading up to the draft. It’s an issue teams are grappling with because a lack of great top-end speed is one of the few concerns about Crabtree. Needs to speed up his release, as he jumps off the line too often trying to lull his defender to sleep. Does not have the elite speed to separate from quick corners on the outside, although the point typically was moot at Tech because he could overpower collegiate talent. Not sudden with the ball in his hands, dancing awkwardly at times instead of using his size and strength. Must improve consistency on downfield blocking, as he has the size to be effective but gives inconsistent effort to get to his man or sustain. Runs with the ball loose in the open field.
2008: Suffered a right ankle sprain after twisting his leg returning a second quarter kickoff vs. Texas A&M (10/18). … Left the Kansas clash (10/25) with a left foot strain and after re-injuring his ankle…Had to leave the field several times to have his right ankle re-taped vs. Texas (11/01)…Did not play in the second half vs. Baylor (11/29) due to a high right ankle sprain…Wore a boot to help his right ankle heal, missing several practices leading up to the Cotton Bowl vs. Mississippi.
2009: At the NFL Combine, doctors discovered a slight stress fracture in his left foot and the injury required early March surgery to insert a screw. Doctors believe Crabtree will be sufficiently recovered in time for training camp this summer. After doctors found the slight stress fracture, they conducted more testing on Crabtree, including a bone scan that revealed that the injury happened only recently, possibly during training for the Combine.