ATHENS — Can one of the most coveted offensive line prospects in Rhode Island High School football develop the passion and edge needed to grow into a starter in the SEC?
Three years later, that’s what everyone at Georgia is waiting to see from Xavier Truss, a 2019 signee who got his first start in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Jan. 1.
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The 6-foot-7, 330-pound Truss has the prototypical size to play left tackle, but he has yet to display the sort of grit and emotion to have an edge against the elite pass rushers in the SEC.
The competition is fierce on the offensive line, and the window for Truss may be closing with younger, more highly-ranked players rapidly developing on the depth chart around him.
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart laid it all out for a reporter from Rhode Island who asked how Truss, a former U.S. Army All-American from Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, is faring.
“He has been out there this spring competing, (and) I think he is doing a lot better with the mental side of things, like picking it up,” Smart said. “Coach (Matt) Luke really challenges him to play with more energy and more passion. He is one of those guys who doesn’t really show it a lot.
“He doesn’t play with a lot of emotion, and sometimes you want that emotion to come out and show some personality when you have a good block and when you compete really hard, but he has gained a lot of confidence.”
Confidence is one thing, but winning the starting job at left tackle — and holding on to it — are different stories.
Georgia signed 5-star prospect Broderick Jones in the 2020 class, and Jones is said to have great footwork but still lack the necessary strength and power to handle the position.
Amarius Mims (6-7, 330) was the 5-star signee in the 2021 class, and once this true freshman gets up to speed and familiar with the playbook he’ll be starting somewhere.
Truss, Smart said, gained some confidence in his Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl performance, even though he wasn’t dominant.
“I thought he gained some confidence in the Cincinnati game,” Smart said. “.He got to play in a tough environment against a really good defense, and the best way to improve at the point that he was at is to go out and play.”
Truss is getting the same opportunities to match up with great defensive players now, lining up across from defenders like Nolan Smith, Adam Anderson and Travon Walker.
It’s a big jump from the Rhode Island High School ranks, to be sure.
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If nothing else, Smart said Truss has the sort of disposition that makes him nice to be around.
“For a kid that probably didn’t get to go against the same caliber of competition week in and week out in high school,” Smart said, “he has adjusted really well, and he is a joy to be around.”