Getting There

Ole Miss sophomore Defensive Tackle Issac Gross has had what seems like a long comeback from two groin surgeries since last football season, but he's finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in his recovery.

In the second half of the Rebels' win over Texas, a familiar figure that has been somewhat missing appeared.

DT Issac Gross exploded into a Texas offensive lineman before the unsuspecting OL could get out of his stance, knocking him back into another Longhorn OL who was pulling, who then got in the way of the UT running back looking for a crease in the middle.

No gain.

In football slang, Gross "blew up" the play, something Rebel fans got used to seeing last year when Issac, a true freshman, awed most with his effectiveness even though he was playing one of the toughest positions on the field at a scant 245 pounds.

In the land usually reserved for Goliaths, the Rebs' David was consistently winning the battles.

Defensive Line Coach Chris Kiffin marveled at Gross' success early on in 2012, but then Gross' exploits became old hat.

"His first step, his quick twitch, is from another planet," Kiffin said last year. "Issac gets on offensive linemen so quickly they do not have time to set. He gets them off balance and it's over."

At the end of last season, the buzz around Gross was all about him gaining some weight and strength and wondering how could he would be in the future.

Issac Gross
File Photo

Unfortunately, his path to OL dominance took a wrong turn.

It was revealed after the season that Issac had suffered a sports hernia, a groin malady, that would require offseason surgery.

When spring training rolled around, he was supposed to be fully recovered, but when he tried to practice, he just wasn't right.

A second surgery - the removal of scar tissue, was required, which resulted in more rehab and curtailed his offseason quest for weight and strength gain.

When August practice started, Gross still wasn't 100%. He was brought back slowly and carefully, making progress gradually, but not getting enough work in to hone his skills or win his job back completely.

The season started and Gross was in the DT rotation, but his reps were limited.

Then, against Texas, signs of the "old" Issac Gross surfaced and he was once again blowing some plays up.

"I'm improving physically, but I still have a long way to go," said Gross. "I'm not where I need to be yet, but when I'm out there I am still going to fight and give it all I've got."

In limited action so far this year, Gross only has five tackles, but two of them are for losses and he has recorded 1.5 QB sacks and knocked down a pass.

While those numbers appear meager, his snaps played to production ratio is off the charts.

"I missed the whole summer workouts trying to get my groin straight. That was my time to get bigger and stronger, so that's my goal moving forward," he explained.

Gross, now in the 255 pound range, struggles with gaining weight. He assumes most of that problem is metabolism.

"I guess I just burn it off. It may be a deal where I just have to wait until I get older to hold the weight I want, but I'll keep working at it," he added.

His experience from last year has helped Gross stay ahead of the curve.

"The plays and the gameplan are natural to me now. I don't have any problems there," he continued. "Now, it's all about the dog in me. What do I have inside? How hard will I battle? I'm going to give it all I can."

Issac Gross
Ben Garrett

Gross likes the direction the Ole Miss defense is taking. He says there is an uncommon unity among he and his defensive cohorts.

"We are closer now. We all hang around each other and are together all the time. We feel close to each other. It's getting to the point where we'll be talking and say 'I love you' a lot," said Gross. "It's really cool how close we are."

Gross is excited about facing the number one team in the nation - Alabama - next Saturday.

"They are going to come right at us with smash mouth football. They do whatever it takes to win," he stated. "But we are on the rise too. We will stay focused, keep the momentum we have and take the field in Tuscaloosa believing we can win."

Last year, Gross played a fantastic game against the Crimson Tide. It was, for all intents and purposes, his first major splash as a collegian.

"I always feel like I play better when I'm facing real good players. I look across the line of scrimmage and think 'that guy should beat me with no problem,' and that's when I get my game going," he noted.

Gross wants to continue the feeling he and his teammates had in the second half against Texas, when the Rebs pitched a shutout.

"Texas scored and had a few big plays in the second quarter, but we knew we could fix those things," he closed. "We came out on their first possession of the second half and got a stop.

"From that point on, we never let them get anything going or get the momentum back. It was over."

While Texas was toast and that is over and done, Gross is just getting started.

Knock on wood, if he continues to get healthier and healthier as the weeks click by, there will be plenty more "blow ups" by Issac Gross.

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