Thursday, September 01, 2005


We must a couple days in our mega-countdown of the 12 Keys to the Irish Football Season. It's OK, though, because these are all pretty important so we really should group them together?


His father and namesake is a legend in the lore of the Miami Hurricanes, and battled against the Irish in several epic contests from 1988-90. Now Maurice Crum, Jr. takes center stage on Saturday night at the position most aimed at turning around Notre Dame's porous defense.

Rick Minter's revamped 3-4 style of defense depends mainly on solid play at the line to allow latitude for the coverage his backs are going to have to use against the pass-happy offenses of teams like Pitt and Purdue. At the center of the new look is the created position of Apache linebacker, which for a time looked to be headed for junior Chinedum Ndukwe. But then, in the final week of spring practice, Crum was elevated to the first unit and hasn't been anywhere else since.

The Apache's job is pretty simple - stop the run when they run and stop the pass when they pass. The responsbility will be on Crum, however, to do both equally well. Unlike gap-stuffer and team leader Brandon Hoyte, whose specialty is covering the run, or the fleet-footed Corey Mays, Crum will be looked to as a safety net on both ends of the field. Stepping into this void requires vision, instinct, and mental toughness, and Charlie Weis says he sees all three in the 19-year old Floridian.

"Some guys are out there but they don't have great football instincts. There's a difference between intelligence and football intelligence, and Maurice is a football player. I like when he's on the field. I feel confident when he's on the field," Weis said at his Tuesday press conference. Minter exuded similiar thoughts: "You have to be the linebacker that can cover and that's what (Crum) has the ability to do - You can give him relief by going to five and six DB's on occasion but for the most part you want an athletic guy at his role and he does it quite nicely."

One of the biggest strikes against Notre Dame is that they have precious little speed and it often comes up to bite them on defense when they simply cannot keep up. That might be true when the offensive target in question is Reggie Bush, but let's save that discussion for October 15th. Over the course of the season, Maurice Crum will need to be the X-factor on defense in terms of speed, strength, and cover ability. If he steps up in that role, it could mean big things for the Irish.



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