Georgia Tech defensive end Izaan Cross -- pronounced I-zyan -- has heard his name mispronounced almost every possible way.
“People butcher it,” he said. “I’ve heard everything from Isaiah to Isaac. People throw in letters that aren’t even in my name. They feel like it’s spelled wrong on the roster.”
This season, recognition shouldn’t be a problem for Cross.
If everything goes as planned this fall, Cross will become a familiar name on what could be one of the most improved defensive lines in the ACC. Georgia Tech returns all three starters up front in the second season of Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme, and expectations are high for Cross entering his junior season. The return of Cross, defensive end Jason Peters and tackle Logan Walls should help boost a defense that allowed more than 370 yards per game last season.
“Going from the 4-3 to a 3-4 was a huge difference,” Cross said. “Your job as a defensive lineman is a lot different. You’re thinking about trying to set up blocks and getting holes for the linebackers as opposed to just trying to get the quarterback in a 4-3. It’s a lot different.”
“I feel like a 3-4 defensive end fits more to my type of playing as opposed to a 4-3 defensive end,” he said. “I’m a tweener, in between an actual 4-3 defensive end and a defensive tackle. That fits perfectly for the role of a 3-4 defensive end. I’m not necessarily dealing with the tight ends or widening out to rush the quarterback, I’m dealing more directly with the offensive tackle.”
Cross started all 13 games last season and had 41 tackles (22 solo tackles). He also had 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, four pass break-ups and one forced fumble. He had at least five tackles in each of the first four games of the season.
Cross said the team was “extremely fed up” with last season’s results.
“I feel like our defense can make a total 180 statistically,” Cross said. “From a numbers standpoint, we rarely got off the field on third downs. We can do that better. I feel like we let teams run the ball on us a good bit. We can turn it around statistically and our defensive line in particular, because we’re more of a veteran group, we can drive the team and push it to some more wins.”