Father Knows Best

Before spring football began, Charlie Weis told returning Apache backer Maurice Crum Jr. to learn the other two linebacker positions because of a possible move to either spot. Good idea, but Notre Dame's head coach had already been beaten to the punch.

Maurice Crum was a step, or year ahead of what was asked of him. As soon as the junior-to-be received his playbook from the new coaching staff a season ago, he instantly started learning the roles of all three linebackers.

"Last year I spent a lot of time learning the two (other) positions just in case for whatever reason, because I was taught when you learn to play linebacker you learn all three of them," Crum explained. "It's not completely new to me. I have some idea of what I'm supposed to do."

So who beat Weis to the punch?

Right after Weis was hired, Crum's father, a 1980 first-team All American at the University of Miami told his son he should know all three linebacker spots in the new defense. Crum didn't know exactly where he was going to land after not playing in a game his freshman season. He set his goal on starting and listened to his father's advice.

Crum quickly settled in at Apache and started all 12 games for the Irish last season. Fellow linebackers Corey Mays and Brandon Hoyte have graduated leaving Crum as the only Irish player with any significant experience. He could return to Apache in the fall, but it's more likely he will move over and play either Mike or Will, depending on the development of his teammates. Crum has already shown the understanding that he is capable of moving.

"After talking with (defensive coordinator) Rick (Minter) we feel fairly confident we could put Maurice at Will, Mike or Apache and he would know what to do," Weis said at his Wednesday press conference.

Crum has proved to the coaches he knows what to do, but he hasn't been able to prove it on the field. Back surgery to repair a stress fracture following last season has kept Crum out of all contact drills this spring for precautionary reasons.

"Anything I think I'm going to hurt myself with I just stay away from," Crum said. Weis said Wednesday that Crum will be ready to go in June, but Crum said he's ready now.

"I feel like I'm ready to play," Crum said with a hint of anxiousness in his voice. "If they put me in today I'd be happy. It's just safety. I can't be mad at that. They just want to make sure everything is ok and that I am ready."

Crum was ready last year when he was given the opportunity to start. His 57 tackles ranked sixth on the team. Crum also had three tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries. He wasn't nervous before back surgery, but was nervous before almost every game last season.

"After each game I got closer and closer to where I felt comfortable as a football player," Crum said. "After the Ohio State game, I felt like I could be a big part of this program. I should be and I want to be, and I feel like it's my turn to step up."

In fall camp Crum will get the opportunity to step up and play both Mike and Will, and show the coaches what he has picked up mentally.

"I've done them all at some point in my life," Crum said reflecting back on his days as a star at Tampa Bay Tech in Florida. "I'm sure I would start off slow but I'm sure I can pick it up just as fast. I think I'll be fine with it just because I've studied hard. Right now I've done a lot of mental learning, so just to get the reps to go with it at any position and I think I'll be ok."

Crum doesn't care where he ends up. "I guess it depends on who we are playing that week. Whatever the team likes to do, I want to be around that."

Even though he has missed the spring, Crum says he is a better linebacker. "Just the experience, each game I was a little faster and I recognized stuff a little more. I'll be a more comfortable linebacker in a system that I'm comfortable in and I know what to do."

Thanks to his father's advice, Crum will know what to do at all three positions.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories