February 26, 2011

Cross one up for Vols

It worked so well the first time around that Tennessee and head coach Derek Dooley quickly are doing recruiting work in the state of Georgia once again.

The Volunteers on Saturday got their first verbal pledge of the 2012 class when Gainesville, Ga., running back Imani Cross gave his commitment at UT's junior day.

"Yes sir I did," Cross said. "I'm a Volunteer and glad to be one. (Dooley) said he was very happy about the decision I made, and we shook hands and he welcomed me to the family. Just reassurance about how much I love the University of Tennessee."

Despite an injury that robbed him of much of his 2010 season at North Hall High School, the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder bruiser gashed opposing defenses for more than 500 yards and 15 touchdowns as his team advanced to the state championships. Cross said UT's coaches he can be a good fit in the system of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.

"They want a power back," Cross said. "They want someone who can grind it out in the SEC. They want someone who is reliable towards the end of the game that can get the tough yards."

While Cross had long expected to make his commitment this weekend, he still was highly impressed by the environment on Rocky Top.

"I loved the family atmosphere," Cross said. "I like being around people who care about not only football but education. And that they prepare you for every situation in life. Tennessee prepares you for that."

Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, Maryland and South Carolina were among the nearly 15 suitors who were vying for Cross' pledge.

With his decision behind him, Cross said he'll look to foster his strengths and continue working to improve.

"I think my strongest point is that I'm coachable," Cross said. "I like to play hard and put everything on the line for my teammates. I like to give my all on every play and that's my style.

"I'm very fiery. I like to add intensity to my game. My coach is very old school so we aren't allowed to listen to music. I like to get my team around me and tell them how my heart feels. Tell them that I love them and tell them I'm going to give them everything I have tonight."

Despite having enjoyed a strong dialogue with the Vols' coaching staff in recent weeks, Cross nonetheless said Dooley & Co. were highly enthused when he committed this afternoon.

"(Dooley) was like, 'Wow!'," Cross said. "He said I was the first commitment and he told me to just help out with everybody else. There are some great lineman here and I just went over and tapped them and said, 'Hey man, I think this is the place to go.' I think everyone will come around and whoever is supposed to be here will be here.

"This is it," Cross said "This is it. I'm a Volunteer."


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