STAFFORD, Va. — Devyn Ford entered James Franklin’s office moments after the Penn State coach picked up a verbal commitment from Nana Asiedu, his teammate at North Stafford High School. As the clock ticked toward kickoff of the Nittany Lions’ 2017 spring game, Ford almost instantly felt a shift.
Asiedu and Franklin became a tag team intent on bringing the coveted 2019 recruit to Happy Valley.
“It didn’t take long at all,” Ford told Land of 10 during a Wednesday visit to North Stafford.
Now, one year later, both blue-chip prospects are set to return for the 2018 Blue-White Game, held April 21 at Beaver Stadium. Dynamics are undoubtedly different for this trip, though.
Asiedu, a 6-foot-7, 290-pound tackle, signed with Penn State on Dec. 20. Considered a top-10 tackle in 247Sports 2018 composite rankings, he will enroll at the university in June.
Ford, listed among premier members of the 2019 running back class and perhaps the best of that bunch, is approaching the conclusion of a lengthy recruitment. He began receiving scholarship offers as a freshman in 2015, and enters the final stretch of his junior year intent on choosing a collegiate destination.
Though Ford isn’t quite ready to entirely shut things down with the rest of Power 5 football programs, his focus is predominately placed on a trio of schools: Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech.
Each university will host him for an official visit in April.
“It’s going to be really special to figure out where I want to go,” Ford said. “I’ve already seen the campuses, the fans, the weight rooms, all that. Now I’m just looking at what relationships I can build with coaches.”
He managed to develop increased rapport with the Nittany Lions staff during a Presidents Day (Feb. 19) trip to campus.
“It was really, really different because every Penn State visit I’d been on before was a game or a junior day, so it’s always been busy,” Ford said. “This time it was relaxed.”
The agenda that day featured a trip to the academic center, a film-study session and access to a players workout.
North Stafford coach Joe Mangano accompanied Ford on that visit, exploring the Penn State offense during an in-depth breakdown with Nittany Lions coaches. He described his offensive attack as “nearly identical” to Penn State’s scheme, and spent part of Wednesday afternoon watching video of the October 2017 matchup between Penn State and Michigan.
Asiedu and Ford attended that game; a blowout Nittany Lions victory and another sensational performance from running back Saquon Barkley.
“Seeing what Saquon did at Penn State was really a big statement for that football program,” Ford said. “That makes it a very interesting offense to look into. It’s very creative and similar to what we run here.”
He rushed for 2,056 yards and scored 32 touchdowns in 2017, according to Inside NOVA. Ford is also a highly capable pass target. These factors, along with his formidable 5-11, 190-pound physical frame attracted attention from college football’s highest levels early and often at North Stafford.
“I’ve been in this process for three years and some things can become very repetitive, so I get tired of focusing on places or visiting schools that aren’t really in my interest,” Ford said. “I’m getting ready to lock it in and get down to business.”
Official visits present a pivotal stretch of travel that will help determine the outcome here. He’ll be at Virginia Tech (April 13-15), Penn State (April 20-22) and Ohio State (April 27-29) during consecutive weekends.
If those experiences aren’t enough to result in a decision, Asiedu has one final pitch planned on behalf of Penn State.
“I’m going to tell him about the tradition at the school, how family-oriented we are, coaches treat the players right and they graduate,” he said. “That’s Coach Franklin’s big thing — graduate, graduate, graduate — and he’s going to treat you like his own son.”
Conversations between Asiedu and Franklin typically don’t end without a status update regarding Ford. The worst-case Nittany Lions scenario would result in Ford returning to Beaver Stadium in 2020 as an Ohio State standout.
“We’ll still be friends off the field but on the field … I might have to move over to defensive tackle for that game,” Asiedu said.
Perhaps better than anyone, Asiedu understands the dynamic presence his longtime teammate can provide. They’ve competed together since middle school, and the running back’s skills have always been apparent.
“He’s an explosive, explosive weapon,” Asiedu said. “Once he hits that outside crease, I know he’s gone. All of the sudden I hear ‘Devin Ford for the Wolverines touchdown.’ And I’m like, ‘Dang, that was fast.’ We’re going to love if he comes to Penn State.”
Ford plans to finalize college plans during the early signing period in December. He will arrive at the university of his choice in summer 2019.
Asiedu hopes he can expect a reunion, while Ford doesn’t undervalue the importance of familiar faces.
“Having people that I know up there, like Nana and [2018 running back signee] Ricky Slade makes me feel more comfortable because there are people up there I can relate to,” he said.
Watch our Thursday conversation with Asiedu and Ford:
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