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Penn State has edge among Big Ten teams for 4-star OL Xavier Truss
It’s been a huge offseason for Xavier Truss, who is quite huge himself. The 6-foot-8, 350-pound tackle has collected more than 30 scholarship offers since the start of January, including one from Penn State.
The Bishop Hendricken (Warwick, R.I.) High School junior competed Sunday at The Opening’s Northeast regional camp, held in Florham, Park, N.J., at New York Jets facilities. Known for his size, Truss also showed he’s working on speed by registering a personal-best 40-yard dash (5.84 seconds).
“Definitely a lot better competition than I expected, in a good way,” Truss said afterward. “Getting to see different kids at both defensive tackle and defensive end was a good opportunity for me. And getting to get tested again, I’m always down to get tested. I always like to see my results and to get better each time.”
Considered the No. 12 tackle and a top-100 overall recruit in 247Sports 2019 composite rankings, he is on the verge of a third visit to Happy Valley. Truss said he will attend the Blue-White Game on April 21, presenting another opportunity to join the Beaver Stadium crowd.
“I’m just looking to get the experience again,” he said. “When I went to the Nebraska game back in November, it was really rainy and gloomy and there were a lot of people there even though the stands weren’t packed. I want to get that feeling again; it was awesome. That was my first big college experience. It was awesome.”
Truss also has upcoming plans to spend time at Michigan and Ohio State, representing his first trips to both schools. The Nittany Lions’ conference rivals have some catching up to do since familiarity presently favors Penn State.
“Yeah, I think [Penn State is] No. 1 on my Big Ten list,” he said.
Despite a strong start for the Nittany Lions, there is a long way to go in this process. Truss, who plans to sign with the university of his choice in December, wants to use all five official visits this fall.
“I definitely want to go see Georgia, Auburn again, and Clemson again,” he said. “I still want to leave two up for grabs, in case I’m really blown away by Michigan or Ohio State or anybody else along the way.”
When it comes to Penn State’s approach here, Truss said the focus has been on his future — on and off the field.
“They really stress academics. I think Penn State doesn’t sell the NFL as much as a lot of other schools do, and I think that’s a really good thing,” he said. “To be completely honest, it’s 1 percent of college players who actually go on to the NFL. If the NFL comes, it’s a really good thing. If not, I’ve got to be prepared to be set up. That’s a lot of what Coach [James] Franklin sells to me. He sells family.”
Truss, who has participated in the sport since kindergarten, explained evaluators see more than simply a massive physical frame while assessing his potential.
“Footwork. Everybody, college coaches, always stress footwork when they review my film and get back to me, give me feedback,” he said. “My high school coaches and even my youth coaches have said I have good footwork and good explosion.”
Watch his 2017 season highlights here:
Nittany Lions RB target reviews recruitment after Ohio State visit
He spent a couple of days at Ohio State, one of three primary contenders to land his scheduled verbal commitment next month. The Buckeyes secured a verbal pledge from fellow top-10 running back recruit prospect Sampson James on March 19 but Ford repeatedly has expressed he’s ready and willing to embrace competition, an aspect he also referenced when asked about incoming 5-star running back Ricky Slade at Penn State.
Penn State and Ohio State are battling with Virginia Tech in a tight race. Each program will receive an official visit during the next three weekends.
This latest trip to Columbus was an unofficial visit, allowing Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer to lay groundwork ahead of an official visit during the final week of April. Virginia Tech will host him this weekend, while Penn State welcomes him to campus for its Blue-White Game weekend (April 20-22).
Ford, listed sixth among running backs and 72nd overall in 2019 composite rankings, reviewed where things stand following his time at Ohio State. He relayed the latest to Land of 10’s Ryan Donnelly.
“Everybody is pretty high and everybody is pretty even,” Ford said. “There’s not a wrong choice in the schools that I’m choosing between. It’s going to be which one is going to benefit me more and which one is going to set me right in life to achieve the things that I want to achieve.”
It’s clear the Buckeyes made a favorable impression during his most recent visit.
“I can see myself at Ohio State,” he said. “The main theme at Ohio State is that if you want to come here, you have to want to be great. That’s how they roll and that’s how Ohio State is. I got that from the players, the strength coach, from [running backs coach Tony] Alford, from Coach Meyer. I got that from everyone’s demeanor around the football program and I could see it for myself too.”
Penn State again finds itself in several battles vs. the Buckeyes for premier prospects. The 2018 cycle included showdowns for standouts such as linebacker Micah Parsons, tackle Rasheed Walker and defensive ends Jayson Oweh and Tyreke Smith. Of those, Ohio State landed only Smith, with Penn State signing the others.
Ford has heard plenty of sales pitches during a recruitment that started during his freshman year.
“I’ve pretty much seen it all,” he said. “Right now, it’s just building relationships with coaches, seeing what I can take from offensive schemes, and seeing which one is going to benefit me more in the future. It’s kind of hard knowing what it will be like until you actually get there, so it’s kind of like a blind date.”
North Stafford (Va.) High School teammate Nana Asiedu, a 2018 Penn State signee, is pushing hard for Ford to join him in Happy Valley. They’ll be at the Blue-White Game together for a second straight year, and Asiedu actually committed to Franklin hours before the action last April.
Still, this is ultimately an individual decision.
“Most important to me is what can a school do for me so that I can be set for the next 40 years of my life after college football or after the NFL, if I choose to play in it,” Ford said. “What school can prepare me the best to play? And which can prepare me the best to benefit me for the future and to make sure I have a job and degree?”
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