Crum Excited About New Position

Maurice Crum Jr. was born to play linebacker. With a fomer college and NFL star as a father, it's been in his blood to hunt down opposing quarterbacks and ball carriers. Crum got a taste of the action last season starting for Notre Dame as a true sophomore, but this season is shaping up to be a breakout year for the third-year player as he'll move to his favored "Mike" backer position.

Riverview, Fla. junior Maurice Crum Jr. was excited to be able to be on the field last season. Starting all 12 games last season, Crum ended up recording 57 tackles and three tackles for loss last year while also forcing a fumble. The always smiling Crum is looking to be much more involved in the action this season.

"Last year, I was just happy to play," Crum Jr. said. "I was just excited to be on the field and I did my best to make plays. You dream of playing college football. Now I just need to take my game to a whole different level this year."

The promising young linebacker will have a shot this year to make a lot more plays as he'll be starting out at the Mike position as the quarterback of the defense at the middle position.

"I don't know yet," Crum said when asked if he'd stay at the Mike position. "Right now they've kind of told me to focus on "Mike" (linebacker), but I could be anywhere.

"I'm excited. Now that I'm in the middle of the field I feel like I can run to the inside of the ball and I've always got a chance to make a play."

The former Tampa Bay Tech high school graduate learned a lot on the field last season at the "Apache" position, but he says Mike is more suited for his style of play. "I feel like I'm a role player guy and that was my job last year to just do my job," Crum said when asked if it was hard to adapt to his new position last year. "This year I'm just looking to make more plays. I think I can make a lot more plays playing inside. I liked Apache last year, but middle is where I probably feel the most comfortable. I just want to play. I'll play wherever they want me to play."

Crum will also be counted on as the lone returning starter at linebacker in a much needed leadership role. He says he's already heard all the rumblings that the Irish linebacker corps could be the "weak link" of the defense in 2006 and takes that personally.

"I take that as an offense to me and I try to put that to the other guys also," Crum said about the rumblings. "They're saying we're the weak link of the defense and the defense is the question mark as a whole. I feel we all have to step it up a level. There's so much competition, and so many people that want to play, I don't think that will be a factor—us being a weak link."

Crum also had another job thrown on his plate this summer and fall—trying to get former running back Travis Thomas ready to play linebacker in the fall.

"Me and Travis spent some time together over the summer going over the plays. He's doing a great job so far. I think with Travis, the best thing about him coming to me is I was in his shoes last year--a guy coming in a trying to get some playing time. Travis is where I was last year."

"Yes he does," Crum said quickly when asked if Thomas had natural instincts to play the position. "I can honestly say that. Travis looks pretty good. He learns fast and picks things up real quick. Travis is doing a great job."

With a new position, and new leadership role and his mentoring role with Travis Thomas, Crum also had to get his body right for the season. The 6-foot, 220-pounder sat out all of spring practice with a back injury but he says he's definitely ready for the season, and to get back to hitting a little.

"I've been going full speed and doing everything," Crum said. "I'm back on the regular lifting program like everybody else so I'm excited to see what I can do.

"I haven't played spring ball at all so I've got kind of an itch to hit someone."

"I just put on a couple of pounds to get ready to play. That's about it," he said when asked how he had to condition his body differently to move inside.

Despite all the positive feelings everyone has about the Notre Dame program heading into the season, Crum knows this team still has a lot of work left to do and some critics to silence.

"For me, personally, I think about every loss that was on our schedule," Crum said when reminded of the bowl loss to Ohio State last January. "The team, it's just not that, it's the whole season last year wasn't good enough for us. For us to be where we want to be we're going to have to step it up a whole another level.

"I think this year that we have a point to prove. I think that's our biggest motivational factor. In order for us to win a National Championship, they're saying it's depending on us, and we're ready for that challenge."

Part of that challenge will be to play faster on defense. Irish head coach Charlie Weis hinted to that in Sunday's media day press conference as being a factor in some of the problems on defense in 2005.

"I think we didn't have an understanding all the time with what we're supposed to do being in a new system," Crum said when asked what it meant to him by playing faster on defense. "I think with nine guys coming back, that won't be a factor this year."

Many expect playing faster to mean flying to the ball and playing more aggressive. Crum admitted he thinks you'll see a more aggressive defense in 2006.

"I think so," he said when asked if he expected the defense to be turned loose this season. "With everyone being comfortable in the system, I think cutting it loose will become a lot more natural because you know what you're expecting, you know what to do.

"I think that we will be better. We've got to play better and I think we'll do a great job this year."


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