Name: James Trucilla
Hometown: Erie, PA
School: Cathedral Prep
24/7: 85, three stars; #58 DT, PA #21
ESPN: 74, three stars; #85 DT, PA #32, East #165
Rivals: 5.5, three stars
Scout: two stars
Other offers: Ball State, Akron, Miami (OH), Eastern Michigan
If it's even possible, James Trucilla is a more important recruit than the OL that I've been bellyaching about, because of this: there are four scholarship DTs on the roster. If the OL is thin, DT is even worse. For reasons we'll get into shortly, it's not as big a disaster as it sounds, but it's still critical to collect some more. Trucilla is the only DT recruit in the already-large recruiting class.
Trucilla also committed in the middle of a stretch that started to make UVA fans a little uneasy. When a guy commits, nobody wants to be the one going, "really? we're competing with the MAC for recruits now?" and coaches are always given leeway with a few of those guys in the class. But starting in mid-to-late June, the commitment list started looking awfully bottom-heavy, and people started thinking it'd be nice to leave some room for the big fish, too.
So, we look for what the coaches were looking for, and figure out why the offers didn't roll in. In Trucilla's case, size is the obvious answer to the latter. There's nothing wrong with Trucilla's height; David Dean is 6'1" and starting to look like an all-conference tackle. But 265 pounds is just big enough to get blown off the middle of the line like a leaf, and Trucilla looks as though putting on a lot of weight could be tough. He doesn't really have room for 30 more pounds; 280-285 seems like his limit, though he may not be asked to go that high.
But there's always a tradeoff, and Trucilla's appeal is in his quickness. Watching his highlight, that's the one trait that stands out, and ESPN agrees, deploying the word "quick" four times in his scouting report. In this case, his relative lack of height is actually an asset, because he can start off low and get underneath and around a blocker. He's probably doomed on the plays where a bigger guy can create any leverage on him and stay in front, but if he gets an angle he's gone. And, you know how announcers are always talking about running backs who "keep their legs moving" as if some of them run without doing so? Trucilla does this, at least on plays where he's successful (and they don't show the other ones, you know?) Some DTs can put down roots and you might as well try to block an elm tree; Trucilla, though, is a three-tech, gap-penetrating DT all the way, not the space-eating kind at all.
His production is a little less than elite, even for a DT; last year and this he's been pulling down about a TFL and half a sack per game. 52 tackles in 13 games last year, not bad at all, it's just that you'd like to see a few more of them behind the line. That's what he'll be asked to do in college, after all, not clog up a line of scrimmage.
Remember I said that DT depth isn't a supercritical thing - it's because most of the time, Tenuta has the defense in a nickel package, and in that alignment, Max Valles plays DE and a DE (usually Mike Moore) moves inside. So UVA actually lines up with two DTs, maybe a quarter of the time. Moore doesn't have a lot of tackles this year, but he does get into the backfield, and that's what Trucilla would be asked to do too. Or, remember John-Kevin Dolce, who was used as an absurdly light DT when London arrived, and was comically bad against the power run game but sometimes exploded someone in the backfield. Trucilla, if he develops to his potential, is a less-extreme version of Dolce, probably a bit less athletic a version of Moore.
Since Chris Brathwaite moved to OL and got buried, UVA doesn't graduate any DTs next year, and the coaches can probably be counted on to redshirt Trucilla. Donte Wilkins and Andrew Brown should be able to hold down DT for a while after Dean graduates, and Trucilla will also have to contend with someone like Michael Biesemier, as an example of someone who might take over Moore's DE/DT role. (Trucilla won't be moving to end himself; his quickness is much more useful against interior linemen, and he'd get swallowed up by long-armed, fancy-footed offensive tackles.) Redshirt sophomore year (2017) is probably the earliest that Trucilla projects to see real playing time; what happens in 2017 and beyond depends on his ability to pick up the defense and develop moves that maximize his natural quickness.