Young Linebackers Waiting Their Turn

When you're a competitor, it's hard to stand on the sidelines. That's the feeling linebackers Joe Brockington and Maurice Crum deal with every day. Both players are fierce competitors waiting their chance to shine. Their chance will likely come next season, but that's not soon enough for either player.

With Derek Curry and Mike Goolsby playing their final season at Notre Dame, the Irish will have to find two linebackers to step in and fill their slots. Neither Joe Brockington nor Maurice Crum are currently lined up in the same positions as Goolsby or Curry, but they're more than happy to give it a shot.

"It's been hard," said Brockington of waiting his turn. "You ask anyone that's been sitting on the sidelines and it's hard. I've just been trying to do what I've been told. I've been on special teams this year so it's really not that bad.

"It keeps your spirits up, that and winning," Brockington said of special teams. "As long as we're winning, I'm happy, but I'd much rather be playing."

Waiting hasn't been fun for Brockington, but he says he's also been learning while watching the Irish starters play on Saturdays.

"I learn from all of them--(Brandon) Hoyte, Mike (Goolsby) and Derek (Curry)," he said. "We call D.C. the technician because his technique is so sound. Goolsby is a tough guy. Hoyte is a tough guy, banger, so I try to learn from them all. I just pick up things here and there from them."

Brockinton's name gets mentioned often when talking to linebacker coach Bob Simmons or defensive coordinator Kent Baer about players likely to fill the spots left by graduation.

"If they're not talking about you, then you have to worry," said Brockington when asked if he read about his coaches talking about him in the papers. "I don't see the quotes, but I like to hear they're talking about me. They're coaching me up and I'm starting to feel more comfortable."

Unfortunately for Brockington, he's not currently playing in the positions that Curry or Goolsby are manning at the current time. We asked Brockington if Simmons has talked to him about switching positions next season.

"He hasn't said anything," Brockington said of Simmons. "If he wants to switch me, that's fine. I'll play anywhere. I just want to get on the field."

Simmons can be a fiery coach and we've seen plenty of Irish linebackers feel his wrath on the football field. Brockington says he's felt the heat from Simmons more than once.

"He can be pretty vocal," said Brockington with a big laugh. "He gets on me when I'm not doing what I need to be doing. It's good and bad, I guess. The good part is if he wasn't getting on me, he wouldn't care. The bad part is, some days I don't feel like I can do anything right. I know it will eventually help me in the end."

"I just got to learn the defense more," said Brockington when asked where he needs to improve to see the field. "I've got to know what I'm doing more. Athletically I think I can definitely play, but just the checks and the whole defense. That's the hardest part.

"In high school I played tailback and middle linebacker. But in our defense it was kind of run around and find the ball. Here, it's different because you're only part of the defense. It's totally different from high school because you have so many responsibilities."

It's rare for a freshman linebacker to be singled out, but from early on in fall camp, freshman Maurice Crum has made a name for himself. We also spoke to Crum about his bright future.

"I look at it as a compliment, but the way my father told me, never listen to that," said Crum when asked if he reads what the coaches are saying about him. "It's good, but never listen to it. To me, I'm working on my bad stuff and trying to push it to the next level. I use it as motivation, but I want everyone to talk about me and not just the coaches and I need to get on the field to do that."

Crum's father also had a pretty stellar career at the Miami knocking heads on defense and Crum says he seeks his father's advice often.

"Yeah, because we talk football all the time—I mean all the time," said Crum of his dad. "He helps me out with a lot of stuff. I ask questions and we just talk about it."

Having that knowledge to tap into has helped Crum adapt rather easily to college football. Like we said, it's rare to hear coaches talk about freshmen linebackers.

"Learning the terminology took a while, but once I got that, it just came naturally to me. I guess I just learned the defense fairly quickly and now I can react to what I see out there."

Crum is another name mentioned often by the Irish defensive coaches as a likely candidate to see the field next season at linebacker. However, like Brockington, Crum is lined up at weak-side linebacker.

"He hasn't talked to me about anything," said Crum when asked if Simmons had talked to him about switching positions. "I really don't know. I'm just ready to play. Just put me out there and let me play."

Not playing is something that Crum has had a very hard time with this season.

"It's very hard to sit on the sidelines and just watch. It's the worst feeling in the world. I had to sit out two games my senior season because I was injured and I hated that. To sit on the sidelines for the whole season is devastating. I just want to play."

We asked Crum if he wished he had used a year of eligibility this year, even if it just meant he played special teams.

"Sometimes I do," he said. "I just want to get on the field and tear up some grass. It's just really hard for me to watch."

But Crum has had to be satisfied with the scout team this season, and he says that's a role he embraces.

"I take that very seriously," Crum said of his scout team duty. "That's my job on the team right now so I take it very seriously. That's my job every day, but at the same time, that's my opportunity for the coaches to notice me--for me to go out on the scout team and bust heads and fly to the ball and keep everyone up around me."

Busting heads is something Goolsby and Curry are known for. Crum is known more for his speed and quickness, but he said he'll have no problem sticking his head into any pile when his time comes.

"I'm from the Sunshine state," said Crum proudly. "Where I'm from, we like to bang a lot, but we run too. I'll show people when I get my chance. I love to bang.

"To me, there's no better way to build momentum than the big hit. The crowd starts yelling and your teammates are jumping up and down. It's a great feeling."

Chances are you'll see a lot of both Brockington and Crum "banging" in the future. There has been a real buzz about both players and we expect to see both on the field instead of the sidelines in 2005.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories