WKU football practice

Then-Western Kentucky redshirt junior linebacker Eli Brown (center) talks to coach Maurice Crum during practice Aug. 15, 2018, at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Western Kentucky has promoted Maurice Crum to defensive coordinator, head coach Tyson Helton announced Sunday morning.

The longest-tenured full-time Hilltopper coach, Crum will be entering his fifth season working with the linebacker position group. He was most recently the co-defensive coordinator in 2020 and also served as co-special teams coordinator during the 2018 campaign.

“I am elated to lead our defense,” Crum said in a news release. “I would like to thank Coach Helton for believing in me and Coach White for his guidance. To the players: Let’s get ready to play.”

Previous defensive coordinator Clayton White left to take the defensive coordinator position at South Carolina. The Gamecocks announced the addition of White on Sunday.

“WKU is a special place,” White tweeted Sunday. “Thank you for everything. #GoTops”

White is a three-time Frank Broyles Award nominee for the nation’s top assistant coach (2017, 2019 and 2020) and spent the past four seasons as the defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach at WKU.

“I’ve had my eye on Clayton for a long time,” South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said in a news release. “He was a great player in college and had some time in the NFL. He’s been part of good programs and has a high level of success, most recently at Western Kentucky. He’s from North Carolina and has a lot of ties to the region. He had some opportunities to go elsewhere, but he wants to be at South Carolina and we’re happy to have him.”

In 2020, the WKU defense ranked eighth nationally in pass yards allowed (177.3), 28th in total yards allowed (348.7) and 41st in points allowed (25.3) per game.

Crum had success with WKU’s linebackers, with primary starting linebackers Kyle Bailey and Eli Brown combining for 129 tackles – including 16.5 for loss – with five sacks, two interceptions and six quarterback hurries. Both Bailey and Brown were voted 2020 Conference USA Honorable Mention by the league’s coaches.

In 2019, Crum helped lead a group of linebackers with a lot of new faces. After making the change from safety to linebacker, Bailey burst on to the scene for the Hilltoppers, leading WKU with 109 tackles and three interceptions. He was one of only seven defenders with at least 100 tackles and three picks in the 2019 season. Bailey earned C-USA Defensive Player of the Week honors vs. UAB and was voted C-USA Honorable Mention.

Another player in Crum’s position group who made strides was Clay Davis. After sitting out the 2018 campaign due to NCAA transfer rules, Davis put together a solid season by racking up 60 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble.

As a team in 2019, WKU produced a top 25 overall defense, as the Hilltoppers completed one of the best defensive seasons in recent memory. WKU allowed only 20.1 total points per game, which was the lowest mark for the program since 2004 and ranked No. 22 in FBS.

In 2018, Crum developed linebacker Ben Holt, who set WKU’s FBS Era record for tackles per game (9.67) with 116 tackles in 12 games. That mark ranked fourth in C-USA and his 116 total tackles were the third-most among league players in the regular season.

In his first season on The Hill in 2017, Crum’s experience at the highest level was put on display as WKU needed to replace two of the season’s previous three starting linebackers, returning only junior Joel Iyiegbuniwe. Under Crum’s direction, Iyiegbuniwe exploded in 2017 en route to an All-CUSA First Team season. He led the Hilltoppers in tackles with 116, the third-most in a single season in the FBS Era, and tackles for loss with 11.5. The junior declared for the NFL Draft a year early and was selected 115th overall in the fourth round by the Chicago Bears.

Crum was a standout linebacker at Notre Dame from 2005-08. During his playing career, Crum played in 50 games with 42 consecutive starts and registered 306 tackles – including 23 tackles for loss – with eight sacks. His 306 career tackles ranked 11th in Notre Dame history. A two-time team captain in 2007 and 2008, Crum was one of only 17 players in school history to accomplish that feat.{&end}

– Follow sports reporter Jared MacDonald on Twitter @JMacDonaldSport or visit bgdailynews.com.

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