News and Notes: 3/24/2006

*Linebacker is the position on the Notre Dame football team that is the biggest unknown heading into spring. Not only have they lost captain Brandon Hoyte, the weak side backer who was the heart and soul of the defense last season. Notre Dame also said goodbye to graduating Corey Mays and his enthusiasm and knack for making impact plays on blitzes or against the run. Defensive coordinator Rick Minter acknowledges that two spots are there for the taking this spring.

"The door is wide open at linebacker," Minter said on Friday. "We got two starters now gone and one returner who is young. Our door is wide open."

That one starter back is Maurice Crum, Jr. The 6'0", 220-pound junior finished sixth on the team in tackles last year and with the departure of Hoyte and Mays, his role looks to vastly increase. Head coach Charlie Weis said at Spring Practice Media Day that Crum would be rotated at all three linebacker spots to see where he fits best and then plug in the others accordingly. Minter wants to widen Crum's awareness of the total defensive scheme.

"Anytime you have a veteran returning, you want to take the time to expand the technical aspect and experience more of the package," Minter said. "You do that with safeties to see if they can play weak or strong. You try to take their knowledge of the game to a different level. That's all we're talking about with Maurice. He's still our field linebacker. I want to do it here in the spring and see what he can digest."

Minter said his players were flying to the ball better on Friday than on Wednesday. As for the competition at linebacker, more spring practices will be needed for evaluation.

"It's early to tell," Minter said about his group's performance for the first two days of practice. "We can be sweat's All-American, so to speak. I thought the effort was good out there. We were flying around. It's been very basic the first few days."

*A look down the Notre Dame football spring roster shows ten players labeled at the offensive line position. Add seniors Brian Mattes nursing a foot injury and John Sullivan recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, the numbers get even thinner. All Irish fans know that help is on the way come June. Five incoming freshmen, led by Sam Young, arrive in the summer to bolster the numbers. But for spring practice, Weis has had to do some scheduling shuffling.

"What I have done is I have taken, instead of having long segments of plays consecutively, I have taken it and broken the same number of plays throughout the practice," Weis said. "So we'll go 12 plays here, 15 plays here, 12 plays here, 12 plays here instead of going 30 in a row because you can't really do that or else you are going to have the same seven or eight linemen in for all those plays. I don't think practice is going to be that much of an issue. It just calls me to do a lot more time deciding exactly how I was going to spread out the practice."

The main position battle appears to be at right tackle. Mark LeVoir is gone and that leaves a spot open. It might be a three-way battle in the spring. Mattes might get the first crack at it but sophomores Paul Duncan and Michael Turkovich will get every opportunity and ample reps to make an impression on Weis and offensive line coach John Latina. All three have yet to see serious minutes. Mattes has been on the field for a total of 37 minutes in his career while Duncan and Turkovich both logged 23 minutes as freshmen.

*The throng of reporters swarmed Brady Quinn as soon as he entered the interview room on Wednesday. This is the life of a Heisman Trophy candidate and Quinn seemed at ease answering the questions and handing the attention. The star quarterback, who graces the cover of the Notre Dame football Spring Media Guide alone with the caption "2006 Heisman Trophy Candidate," can think of one instance last season when the press was overbearing.

"If you look back at the Fiesta Bowl, that was a situation that kind of blew out of proportion," Quinn said. "To be honest, that's what the media does. As a quarterback, you get more praise than you should and probably worse than you should after a loss. It's one of those things where you just have to take it like a game and stay calm. I'll roll with the questions in this case." Top Stories