In the eyes of most observers, the first two games of Michigan's 2006 football campaign were nothing more than nice tune-ups for the regular season. With Notre Dame coming up on the schedule Saturday…now is when it gets real. Coaches often struggle to keep the eyes of there players on the opponent directly in front of them. Fortunately for the brass in Ann Arbor, they were able to keep their players focused on the task at hand. That may have been easier said than done with some players, but not with Shawn Crable. As a first-time starter this season, every contest has had "big time" written all over it. Furthermore, he had a great deal of respect for the Wolverines first two adversaries.
"It was pretty easy for me not to look ahead," said Crable. "They were good opponents. They brought different things to the table that we had to work hard to prepare for."
Even with the healthy perspective he had for the first two games, Crable acknowledges that there is definitely a different feel this week.
"Now it's here," Crable said regarding the Notre Dame game. "It's a different experience. These first couple of games we played…they were good quality opponents, but they weren't Notre Dame. I think we've got to pick our tone up, fix our mistakes, and get better at the things we've done wrong in these first two games. We really hone in on them to play better."
As one of the defense's most versatile players, Crable is asked to wear many hats. On one series, he might be lined up at any of the defensive line positions and be asked to rush the quarterback. On the next, he could be dropping back into coverage from his SAM linebacker spot. Despite receiving high marks from his coaches on his early season performance, Crable feels that there are some areas of his game that definitely need work.
"I've got a lot to improve on," he said. "I haven't really got to play SAM a whole lot. I've been basically rushing and stuff. I've got to pick up my rush habits. They're sliding protections to me. I've really got to learn to deal with them doing that and find a way to still get to the quarterback. I'm causing some pressure, but I'm not doing it nearly as much as I should be."
When Crable adjusts to what offenses are trying to do to him, he could become one of the more disruptive defenders in the league. His head coach certainly sees that kind of potential in him.
"I think Crable should be a great pass rusher before he's through playing here," said Michigan headman Lloyd Carr. "In the opening game, I was disappointed with the way he rushed the passer…and he was disappointed. He was much lower (against Central Michigan). He got off on the snap much quicker and he really came as hard as you could expect anybody to come. He drew a penalty there late in the game, and if you watch him rush on a big tackle there, it was something to see. I think he's confident, I think he likes where he's playing, and we've got a lot of things on his plate as far as different rushes. We'll try to utilize his abilities."
Crable will likely be a key component of an attack plan whose goal is to put a great deal of heat on Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.. The entire defense understands that pressure is one of the best ways to keep the talented QB and Irish headman Charlie Weis off-balance.
"They have plays that they love to run and they have plays that they
throw in just for the team they are playing and our weaknesses," explained
Crable. "(Coach Weis) does something nice every game. Last game,
he started an empty formation. He might come out in a goal line situation.
I don't know what he will do, but he does something to throw you off. He follows
the plays you have made mistakes on the previous weeks, but for the most part
he stick to what they know and what they do best."
"We have to get to (Quinn)," he continued. "If you distract a quarterback, then the offense isn't going to run too smoothly. We want to get to him and get to him early. We want to all game."