Deon Figures, Tim James, Cullen Bryant and Dick Anderson are the only four men in the history of the Colorado football program to make six or more interceptions in one season.

Junior Ken Crawley is making it his individual goal for the 2014 season to join their ranks.

"Six or more," Crawley said after Thursday's practice. "I feel like if I was in the right spots last year I could have caught more and I was out of position a lot of times. So I feel like I'm better prepared now."

Figures was the last to pick six in one season, 22 years ago in 1992.

Crawley made the first two interceptions of his career last season as a sophomore, but his assessment of having missed other opportunities is exactly how coaches felt about his performance as well as other Buffs defensive backs last season.

They brought in junior college transfer Ahkello Witherspoon in January to challenge Crawley and other veteran members of the secondary. It seems to have worked perfectly for Crawley.

Witherspoon thrived in the spring and had a lot of people speculating that he would be a starter when CU opens the season next week against Colorado State in Denver. Crawley was injured in the second half of spring but has bounced back in a big way in August and seems to be in the driver's seat when it comes to earning the starting spot.

And it isn't because Witherspoon has missed a sizeable chunk of August with a back injury. Crawley is simply playing as well as he has in his career.


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"I just kept pushing," Crawley said. "It's good having that competitive spirit around. He's good and he's going to be a great player in the future. I have a role on this team, we all do. We all have to step up. We're all a family at the end of the day."

Crawley says being coached by head coach Mike MacIntyre has helped him improve. He said gaining 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason has made him more effective in battling receivers at the line of scrimmage. He said he's better in numerous ways when it comes to technique his mental approach including being on the balls of his feet, knowing where he is on the field and what the situation is in the game.

"He's making more plays on the ball, playing with more confidence, being more physical," MacIntyre said. "I feel like he has improved quite a bit and I'm excited about what he's doing. He's gotten bigger, and stronger, too, if you've seen him. He's a lot scrappier."

Middle linebacker Addison Gillam doesn't get a lot of time to watch cornerbacks during practice, but it's easy to notice teammates making plays during scrimmage situations. Gillam said coaches track how many times defenders get their hands on the ball whether a turnover is caused or not in practice. He said Crawley's name is usually at or near the top of the list with pass breakups and interceptions.

"He's been playing a lot harder," Gillam said. "It seems like he's got a lot more knowledge about the defense now. He's doing a lot of the fundamentals that the coaches are teaching him and I think that has helped him tremendously so far."