Aashari Crosswell is used to tough competition.
Last year, he faced an offense in practice every day that featured two five-star receivers, one of the most dynamic slot receivers on the West Coast and two four-star athletes that lined up in the backfield. After recently transferring to Long Beach (Calif.) Polytechnic, Crosswell is now facing the nation’s No. 2 quarterback, a five-star wideout and a versatile four-star tight end.
“I feel like I’m getting better just competing every day and going hard every day,” Crosswell said. “We go tempo every day, so I just feel like I’m getting better like that.”
Now, Crosswell will get a chance to face the nation’s best after he received an invite to The Opening Finals. It was something he was hoping for after not getting an initial invitation at The Opening Los Angeles Regional.
“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to go to The Opening," Crosswell said. “When I didn’t get invited to The Opening at The Opening [regionals], I wasn’t even mad or nothing because God has a plan. I know he was going to bless me with the opportunity.
“That’s just getting me better, competing with the top dudes out there. I’m just getting better and just trying to put a name out there for myself.”
The 6-foot-0.5, 184-pound four-star safety continues to put time and effort into improving his craft. This spring, he’s taken a specific effort to improve his coverage of wide receivers and tight ends when he’s playing off the line of scrimmage. He feels like bump-and-run coverage comes more natural to him because he only has to be focused on one target.
“It’s different,” Crosswell said of off-man coverage. “You’ve got to read the quarterback and you’ve also got to read your man when you’re playing off man. I’m not that good at it, but I’ve been working on that really hard. Once I get better at that, I’m going to be good.”
By improving his off-man coverage, Crosswell will be an even more valuable asset to the college coaches and coordinators that are recruiting him. Instead of only playing over the top, if he can cover slot receivers and tight ends split out, Crosswell can be used in nickel and dime packages, which will allow him to get on the field sooner. Some schools see him solely as a safety. Some are recruiting him to play nickel back and others think he has the versatility to play either. He sees himself as a safety, but feels he has the skillset to play whichever position his future coaches choose.
Crosswell said USC is one of the schools recruiting him the hardest, along with Michigan, Washington and Nebraska. He took an unofficial visit to see the Trojans practice this spring and saw how Clancy Pendergast and Ronnie Bradford use their defensive backs in various roles, playing both cornerbacks and safeties in the nickel back spot, which he believes makes him a good fit for their defense.
“[There were] a lot of great prospects out there I used to play with like Jack Jones. I seen him out there. He was doing his thing. He was playing corner and nickel. That’s something I can do too also. I see myself as a nickel and a safety guy.”
The number of top players USC has produced throughout the program's storied history is another selling point for Crosswell. The Trojans also have a pair of Crosswell’s former Los Angeles (Calif.) Hawkins’ teammates enrolling in the summer, another two committed in the next pair of recruiting classes and Long Beach Poly teammate Matt Corral also committed.
Crosswell isn’t necessarily ready to follow anyone's commitment footsteps just yet, but it is one of those former teammates, wide receiver Joseph "Jody" Lewis, who chose USC on National Signing Day that Crosswell is modeling his recruiting timeline after.
“Right now, I’m just going to do the same thing that Jody did. Just play it out right now. Just go through the process.”
USC recruiting analyst Gerard Martinez contributed to this story.
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