December 16, 2009

Cross steps up to help team

Sometimes playing on a team means making sacrifices for the better good and defensive end Izaan Cross has temporarily moved inside to help Georgia Tech. Cross and defensive line coach Giff Smith both say the move is just for the bowl game. In the ACC Championship game, Cross played defensive tackle and he has moved inside at times during the season in passing situations to try pressure quarterbacks.

"It is different and it is not as bad as I thought it would be. I have only been getting reps inside," Cross said. "It was something I had to do because we are so nicked up on the defensive line. It is a short-term deal. I talked about it with Coach Smith and he told me it is something he had to do because if I were not playing inside we did not have enough people. Jason Peters was hurt in the last game and we would have been left with just two tackles, T.J. Barnes and Logan Walls."

The biggest different for Cross is facing constant double teams instead of the typical one-on-one situations he faced at end.

"The doubles teams are the hardest part of the transition. Not having the freedom to wind out and go free while only taking one person. Fighting off the double team during pass rushing is very hard as well," he said. "What I have noticed is that moving inside is making me better as an end because I know what the inside guys are doing. When I move back to end I will be able to tell which way I need to move to counter and the things I can do because of what the inside guys are doing."

Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack is keeping quiet about what type of defensive scheme the Jackets will try to employ to stop Iowa in the Orange Bowl, but the Jackets have almost all of their linebackers now healthy except Kyle Jackson, so they are still using some 3-4 defense in practice. He sees something he likes from Cross at defensive tackle.

"We have been using Izaan at end most of the season and now he is getting reps at tackle. He needs to work on keeping his shoulders square and keep from getting turned when he gets blocked, but he is getting better and better as we go along."

Wommack says they are working on a lot of fundamentals to help stop the run.

"We are going out there and getting better and fits and tackling, the basic stuff," he said. "We are not trying to give too much of it away. We have used so many fronts this year it might be better not to give away exactly what we are doing. We are trying to go with a base front and get better at it."

With former Virginia head coach Al Groh on campus Tuesday, speculation swirled about the 3-4 defense, but Wommack says no one even talked to Groh from the defensive staff and he was merely observing on the sideline.

"I didn't get a chance to talk to Coach Groh and he has been coaching for 41 years. He seems like a nice guy, but he was just watching," Wommack said.

One of the bigger concerns for Wommack is the return of Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Iowa was undefeated when Stanzi was injured during the Northwestern game and he has a knack for making big plays for the Hawkeyes.

"He went down 19 plays or something like that into the Northwestern game. He is a confident accurate guy who has control of the game. He has more repetitions than the other guy," Wommack said. "I also see a physical offensive line with an excellent tight end and receivers who can get up and catch the ball. They are very effective and you don't get to ten wins and an overtime away from 11 wins without doing a lot of things right."

"They are very similar to us because they have had a lot of close ball games and they find a way to win," he said.

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