August 9, 2009

Cross looking to contribute this year

One of the true freshmen making a major impact in the early part of fall camp is defensive end Izaan Cross. Cross spent the majority of Saturday's practice working with the second unit and he has been getting quality snaps since the middle of the week at defensive end. Cross credits hard work for his quick move up the depth chart.

"It feels good and it proves that hard work does pay off," Cross said of his playing time. "Coach Giff Smith promised me the opportunity and that is what he has given me and I plan to make the most of it."

During practice on Saturday, Cross replaced Anthony Egbuniwe as the first defensive end sub. Egbuniwe had to sit out practice and was not allowed to participate in the eleven-on-eleven drill.

"Anthony who is usually our third defensive end was not practicing today and coach moved me up the depth chart," Cross said. "When something like that happens you have to be ready to play."

Head coach Paul Johnson says Cross could help the team this year.

"These guys are just getting a chance to play. I think Izaan is very mature for his age and strong. Will he play this year? He might," Johnson said. "We are still just six days in and we'll know in a couple weeks. He has got a chance. In a perfect world, all of those guys could be a lot better if you could red-shirt them and then rest them for next year. If they can help us win games and good enough to get into the rotation and play meaningful snaps, then we will play them."

Despite only having a week of coaching under his belt, Cross has been able to compete and move up the depth chart. He credits his fast movement on studying and strong defensive tackle play.

"I have been studying the playbook really hard and I have been getting a little more confident," Cross said. "I have guys inside like Ben Anderson and Logan Walls helping open plays for me."

While Cross works behind Robert Hall, all of the veteran defensive ends work with him including Derrick Morgan. Morgan took a few moments during practice Saturday to explain a mistake Cross made on a specific play.

"I messed up on that play and I was supposed to get the quarterback and I squeezed down on the tackle too hard," he said. "Derrick was talking to me, so something like that won't happen in a game. I am working behind Robert and he helps me a lot to. I always ask Robert and Derrick stuff everyday and I have them quiz me on different plays. They have both been really good to me."

Avoiding a redshirt is something Cross is very focused on during the next few weeks of practice. Cross says he thinks he performed well on Saturday.

"I am working on avoiding the redshirt and we will see what coach Smith says after he watches the film today," he said. "I think I did well today, but I am tried as everything. I was not surprised by how hard it is, but that heat is tough. That heat makes everything worse. It was a grind."

Overall Cross says the young defensive linemen are holding their own during practice.

"We are looking pretty good," Cross said of the freshmen linemen. "We automatically come in and step behind everybody else on the depth chart and that makes us three steps lower than all the other defensive line. We are all learning together for the most part. Too Tall, Emmanuel Dieke came in early so he knows more than us, but me, J.C. Lanier, Chris Crenshaw, and Euclid Cummings all room right next to each other, so we help each other out a lot. We have little meetings between ourselves to learn the defense."

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