Securing a commitment from Eric Crosby was no small feat for Tennessee. When the four-star defensive tackle from Ocean Lakes High School (Virginia Beach, Va.) announced his decision last week to commit to the Vols, he had to turn his back on nearby Virginia Tech.
“It was a hard decision,” the 6-foot-1, 285-pound defensive tackle told SEC Country on Sunday during Nike’s “The Opening” regional camp in Charlotte, N.C. “I had to pick to either stay at home or go away and I picked to go away to Tennessee. They have a a great coaching staff. They’re rebuilding their program.”
Crosby, who has claimed 19 scholarship offers, said he picked the Vols, in part, because of his relationship with defensive line coach Steve Stripling and defensive graduate assistant Nathan Ollie, who works extensively with Tennessee’s defensive line. Crosby has also been a main target of Tennessee receivers coach Zach Azzanni.
“Everytime I go up there, they make me feel at home,” said Crosby, who is the No. 112 prospect in the nation, the No. 6 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 3 prospect in Virginia.
Crosby said he began to finalize his decision in early April. He knew the Vols and Hokies would be the finalists.
“I just knew that those were the two schools I wanted to be at,” he said. “I just had to do my research.”
Crosby became Tennessee’s seventh commitment of the 2017 class when he announced his pledge late last week. He said the Vols’ need at his position was a huge factor.
“The biggest one was depth chart,” Crosby said. “They didn’t sign any (high school) defensive tackles for the 2016 class, so that was a big factor in my decision. Overall, I just wanted to feel at home while I was up there.”
Crosby said he has visited Knoxville “three or four times” and that the connection with the coaches stood out, especially when the conversations weren’t related to football.
“The coaches don’t always talk about football,” Crosby said. “They talk about other things. They like to get to know me. It’s a family school. You’re not all about football.”
Crosby said he expects “big things” from Tennessee’s defensive line this fall. First-year Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop should only add to the playmaking. The former Penn State coach is known for his aggressive defensive style.
“He’s cool,” Crosby said. “That was another big factor in my decision. He’s all about having the d-line make plays.
Crosby said he faced a mixed reaction when he announced he was heading to Tennessee instead of Tech.
“Family, they were all in,” Crosby said. “It was all about me making the decision. They didn’t care where I went. They just wanted me to feel at home because I’m the one who has to go there. I’m the one who has to sleep at night. They didn’t really care. Now, my friends on the other hand, I’ve got friends that committed to Virginia Tech and they wanted me to go there.”
Those friends won’t likely stop recruiting Crosby just because he committed publicly last week. He still has interest in Virginia Tech and said he’ll take more visits before he signs his national letter of intent next year. A surefire stop will be at Bristol Motor Speedway when the Vols and Hokies face off in what is expected to be the highest-attended college football game in history.
“I’m going to definitely be at that game,” Crosby said.
That will give Virginia Tech more exposure. However, it seems as if it would take a lot to overcome the Vols, which has SEC affiliation in its favor.
“The only thing you can say about that is that’s just big boy ball, going out there in the SEC and playing big colleges like that,” Crosby said. “I thought it was a great choice. I’m keeping in touch with the coaches all the time. No regrets.”