Riverside High School's Nick Rossi has no trouble describing the fundamental on which his game is based. The linebacker includes some form of the word "physical" in just about every description of his play – and that's a quality that any number of coaches love to see in their players.
Rossi, who played both inside and outside linebacker spots for his school a season ago, will focus on a spot in the middle for his upcoming senior season. The mike backer spot fits Rossi, who relishes contact, to a T. One look at his film shows a player that's always in the middle of the action.
Thus, it wasn't a surprise that Rossi was one of the first players on the field at WVU in anticipation of camp action. He was stretched and ready to go even before strength and conditioning director Mike Joseph assembled the 100+ campers for group warm-up activities. Although he had made a pair of trips to WVU earlier this year, Sunday's one-day camp was the first time he was able to get on the field for some action. The mobile, aggressive linebacker enjoyed his time at the camp, and relished the chance to demonstrate his abilities first hand to Mountaineer assistant coaches.
"It was definitely a good time to be on the field and get to work out there," said Rossi, who has already been offered a scholarship by the Mountaineers. "The drills were fun, and I had a blast working with Coach Casteel. The coaches wanted to see me and see how I moved, and I think I did pretty well. When they offered, they told me they loved my physicality and speed and the way I play."
Rossi, who also visited on junior day and for the Gold-Blue spring game, used his strength to his advantage during one-on-ones, in which he had to cover backs and tight ends against the pass.
"The running backs, they had some speed, but my physicality is a big part of pass coverage and what I can do. I think I did o.k. there."
A Big East fan growing up, Rossi is happy with the West Virginia offer, but is also working toward gaining more offers. He has more camp visits planned to Syracuse, Rutgers, UConn and Villanova this summer, and will wait a bit to see how those visits go and relationships develop with coaches before making a decision.
"Things are going well in recruiting," he noted. "It's starting to heat up, and I'm getting good feedback from more schools. I was thinking that I wanted to commit a little early, maybe a few weeks into the season, but I might push that back. I am just kind of playing it by ear."
Rossi wants to continue to work on his speed (he has turned in a 4.7 clocking in the 40-yard dash) but he appears to be one of those players with "football speed" – that is, a guy that reacts more quickly and gets to the ball faster than his timed speed might indicate. He carries himself well on the field, and runs through drills quickly and efficiently while taking instruction well. Add that in with a desire to improve his leadership on a young Riverside squad, and Rossi appears to have all the elements a middle linebacker needs for success. As such, he landed that early offer from West Virginia, and could well add others before the summer is over.
"I have had a lot of interest in West Virginia and the Big East for a long time," he said. "I love the conference and the way they play. I love the whole Big East."
Rossi is also looking at the academic side of the schools that he is hearing from. With plans for a degree in engineering or another science-related field, he wants to find a home where he fits well on both the academic and athletic sides of the college equation.