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The Syracuse coaching staff is still trying to put the finishing touches on its recruiting class of 2017, but it’s never too early to look ahead. That’s particularly true when you talk about FBS-level players in New York, including Brockport’s Cory Gross.

The 6-foot-2, 186 pound junior just finished up a strong season, shining at both running back and defensive back. Right now, Gross is being targeted by several schools – including Syracuse – with an eye toward playing in the secondary. However, with his size, athleticism, and ability to deliver some big hits, he’s got the potential to grow into a linebacker at the next level, as well.

Gross was good enough to chat with us a bit about how his season went, and how things are developing with his recruitment.

Otto’s Grove: Your season recently ended, and while obviously you’d like it to still be going strong, how do you feel things went overall?

Cory Gross: I think we did pretty awesome, considering the odds we were up against. We lost a significant amount of players going into this season. We had over 10 players graduate, which left our team with many gaps, especially up front in the trenches. Many of our returning players hadn’t played much, and the experience just wasn’t there.

My role as a leader increased, and I had to be more vocal when it came to rallying and motivating our guys. We started out rough, losing three of our first four, but began to gel and ended the regular season on a 3-game win streak, giving us a playoff berth. We lost in the first round, due to being overmatched.

OG: You put up some big numbers on both sides of the ball. Do you have a preference for offense or defense?

CG: I was able to put up some big numbers this year on both sides of the ball. I realized early that if we were going to win, I had to demonstrate heart, dedication, and pure will to our guys. I played my tail off offensively and defensively. Every down on defense and often on offense. I have played running back all my life, but as of late I have spent most of my time on defense partly due to having three running backs, myself included, in the same class.

I believe my coaches reserved me a lot for defense to be dominant on that side of the ball. I realized to have a chance to win, I needed to be healthy and energized to give our defense a chance. I enjoy both very much but more importantly, I realize how deep each position goes at the next level. There are more opportunities to play on defense, for sure. More opportunities to get looks, and possibly to develop into a player with a chance at the NFL.

I would like to be a player like Jabrill Peppers, where I could be utilized on both sides of the ball, or when a situation arises I can have my number called. I can do it all: run, catch, defend the pass, cover or stop run, so I believe my versatility and size allows me to do many things and I just want to help wherever and whenever I can, offensively or defensively.

OG: On defense, you’re playing corner but certainly have the size and physical playing style to play safety, or even grow into a linebacker. If you wind up on defense at the next level, do you have a preference for a position?

CG: I play corner for now, but many college coaches see my size and potential for growth. My frame gives me a unique versatility. I like CB but I still need to develop more speed. I currently run a 4.56 40 time, but I am training and would love to get it down to a 4.4 or lower.

Do I think I can do it, yes. Do I think I can gain 20-30 pounds and maintain the speed I am currently at, yes. My mind is set to elevating my game to the highest level possible, but I want to give myself every opportunity to do so. There are many DBs on a field at any given time, and many LBs on a field, but it just depends on the program’s base defense that dictates which ones are on the field more. I really enjoy CB and I like shutting down receivers and providing run support. I could do this as a linebacker, as well. We’ll see what the future has in store after my senior season.

OG: I mentioned your physical nature. You seem to really like contact and delivering some big hits. How would you describe yourself as a player?

CG: As I mentioned earlier, my frame is my biggest asset. I am 6-foot-2 and lengthy, with broad shoulders. I have huge growth potential. I’ve played football since tyke, and studied it a lot. I’ve played multiple positions because of my size. My parents worried about my knees when I was the biggest kid on the field, and my dad coached me. He always moved me around to protect my future. I’ve seen the game from many positions: QB, LB, CB, RB, DE, WR. That only made me smarter on the field. Brain, plus size, equals football player.

I love to hit, but I also recognize the dangers. Learning cornerback has provided me the opportunity to work on covering and tackling proficiently and efficiently. Sitting back and recognizing pass or run has really come easy, and reacting is a big strength of mine. Another strength is that I don’t worry about big hits. They’ll come. More importantly, I practice being a for-sure tackler. If you look at my tapes, I don’t look for the knockout hit. I am a definite stopper.

OG: How’s your recruiting going? I know you’ve been lining up a lot of visits. What are your plans for in the next few months in terms of checking schools out, and who are you hearing from the most? Do you get the sense that offers are about to start coming in after your big year?

CG: My plan going forward is to keep grinding. As for recruiting, I ask my parents to take me to every available game invite. I am truly enjoying the process. I have been to ‘Cuse, Maryland, Buffalo, and I plan on going to Pitt and BC as well.

I am receiving attention from many colleges in the ACC. Big Ten and SEC teams have expressed interest, we will see how much later on. But ‘Cuse and the Terps are really interested. No offers yet, but I’m not disappointed. They’ll come in time. I want to enjoy and experience this wonderful opportunity that only presents itself once in a lifetime.

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Jeff is a 2003 graduate of Syracuse University, and has been published on various websites including Cracked.com, Spike.com, TheSportster.com, Gunaxin.com, and TopTenz.net, among others. His work was featured in the New York Times bestselling book You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News. He’s got a wife, and a toddler he’s brainwashing to love Syracuse. Jeff’s a pretty great guy, overall, and would never steal your car. Follow him on Twitter: @jekelish