CORVALLIS — Xavier Crawford entered the 2016 season as a redshirt freshman with experience limited to the practice field.

By the time the end of the season arrived, Crawford had established himself among the top returning cornerbacks in the Pac-12 for 2017.

He was named a freshman all-American by USA Today and several other outlets.

It's been a fast rise for Crawford, who spent most of his time at nickel during his redshirt season.

"He was better outside. He was better at the corner position," OSU cornerbacks coach Cory Hall said. "We had him inside at nickel and every time we let guys rotate and get reps at corner.

"When we put him at corner, it seemed to be natural to him. He didn't even have a lot of coaching at it. Once we really took him and taught him the corner position he, over weeks, got better. He stayed healthy, he battled, he never came out, really. And he played 12 weeks in the Pac-12."

Safety Brandon Arnold said Crawford started to turn into a different person throughout the season.

"He started getting more savvy," Arnold said. "Making more plays, just doing stuff that you don't see a freshman coming in doing or maybe a second year or whatever. He just changed his whole game.

"We were watching Washington film and he's out there strapping up Pettis, one of the most dominant receivers we've got coming back in the Pac this year. So he just went out there and proved himself and played his heart out and just kept making plays."

Once he won the starting spot at right corner, Crawford made the most of the opportunity.

Crawford finished the season with 70 total tackles, two for loss with one sack and one interception.

"Last year was big. It was kind of a long time coming," Crawford said. "I had to greyshirt and redshirt, so to actually play, it was actually big for me. It was a long time coming.

"From the first game I went out there and I feel like when I started playing I already knew then that I could play. It was just a matter of me believing in myself."

Crawford has all the tools and measurables. He's 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, so he can match up with the taller receivers, and has decent speed.

"He's physical and fast. And X is intelligent. He's an intelligent football player," Hall said. "And he's still learning. This is really only his second year. Going into his second year of playing a position truly and so he's still learning and he tries to get better and that's one thing he strives to do."

With the 2016 season in the past, Crawford can use it as a springboard into this fall.

He's put in the offseason work and has another month before the season starts.

"My goal has been just to improve myself," he said. "Get bigger, stronger, faster. Get more detailed in the film room and to know my opponents better and that should elevate my game."

Crawford will also have to adjust to playing left corner, where Treston Decoud started last year.

"He's got to get comfortable with the left side," Hall said. "Obviously, he was a right-side corner last year. He's just got to get comfortable. There is a difference, the footwork, the steps, the hand placement. Just the lead foot and the plant and the step. So he's just getting used to that."