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Former Malvern Prep star Trevor Morris sparking Rutgers defense

Junior linebacker Trevor Morris will lead an improved Scarlet Knights defense into Beaver Stadium against Penn State.

Rutgers linebacker Trevor Morris pursues Nebraska wide receiver JD Spielman during the first half Sept. 23.
Rutgers linebacker Trevor Morris pursues Nebraska wide receiver JD Spielman during the first half Sept. 23.Read moreNati Harnik / AP

Trevor Morris enjoyed his experience of traveling to Penn State two years ago as a true freshman with his Rutgers teammates and being part of a "Stripe Out" before more than 103,000 fans at Beaver Stadium.

Now Morris, a Malvern Prep graduate from King of Prussia, gets to return to Happy Valley with the improved Scarlet Knights for a Saturday contest before another six-figure crowd.

"It's great because I have a lot of friends that go there, a lot of friends that have an affiliation with Penn State," he said. "For me, I kind of have that experience (of 2015) in the back of my mind so I know what to expect.

"I just really look at it like, personally, I really like away games because I like the fact that it's me and my boys versus everyone. So I don't really take the crowd too much into play, but I just know that we need to focus on ourselves and get ourselves right to play a good game."

The 6-foot-1, 232-pound Morris leads Rutgers in tackles with 77 in nine games, a rate pretty close to that of last season when he ranked No. 1 on his team with 102.

As far as his recruiting, Morris said that he had some contact initially with Bill O'Brien's staff at Penn State but that Rutgers was with him from the beginning, and that's where he focused after the Nittany Lions' coaching change to James Franklin.

"By then, I was really big on Rutgers," he said. "They were the first team I was truly interested in. I stuck to my gut and stuck with the team that had been there for me. Recruiting was interesting for me, but the most fun was that I ended up at Rutgers where I was happy, where I wanted to be for the most part."

Morris and his defensive teammates have turned around Rutgers' fortunes this season after a 2-10 season in 2016, when the Scarlet Knights allowed 37.5 points per game. Coming off a 31-24 win last week over Maryland, they enter Saturday's game with a 4-5 mark (3-3 Big Ten) and have reduced their points yield to 24.9 per game.

Morris credits second-year head coach Chris Ash.

"I feel like Coach Ash has really established a great culture here and we're just all trying to basically live by that culture," he said. "Everybody's trying to buy in. We know that we have the talent. We know that we have the people that work hard. We have a great support staff. A lot of it is just belief, and we're trying to keep pushing in that direction."

Morris also has contributed with his experience and leadership. Saturday's game will mark his 21st start in his last 22 games. While he has helped his younger teammates, he said that same group keeps him going.

"I have great guys around me that are always pushing me," he said. "I just feel like that's the best thing to have. Being a leader is one thing, but having guys around you that are on the same mission and always grinding and always pushing you makes everything easier and helps a lot."

And he said his advice to those playing in Beaver Stadium this weekend is simple.

"I told them it's going to be loud," he said. "But I just let them know at the end of the day, just focus on yourself and nothing could be in your way."