Considering all of the accolades Russell gained during his time at GSU and the fact he’s started every game the past three seasons, it’s hard to believe it started off with a road-bump. Coaches put up with the starting group as a true freshman, and lined up him against SEC foe Georgia in the opener. He suffered a knee injury in that game after assisting on one tackle, however, and redshirted the season. Russell came back from that malady with a vengeance, however, using his competitiveness and agility to become one of the top defenders at the FCS level – and a legitimate NFL prospect – despite lacking superb physical attributes.
Russell earned second-team All-Southern Conference honors from league coaches as a redshirt freshman, racking up 11 tackles for loss and six sacks while also blocking three kicks on special teams. His game took another step in 2010, when he was named a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award as the FCS’ top defensive player in addition to receiving numerous All-American honors and first-team all-conference notice (71 tackles, 18.5 for loss, eight sacks). Once again his production impressed as a junior (16 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks), earning SoCon’s Defensive Player of the Year award and All-American notice from multiple outlets (including Walter Camp and the Associated Press for the second straight year).
High-motor defensive tackle who sets up anywhere between the two three-technique spots. Has good initial quickness from his stance and uses his hands to swipe by centers off the snap, but also makes many hustle plays by constantly moving to the ball in the backfield. Very good as a two-gap player, playing with leverage, keeping eyes in the backfield and shedding with strong hands. Stacks up backs on contact, drops hips and stone them in the hole, keeps feet moving to push them backwards after contact. Also stays with stretch plays down the line and has some agility and want-to to stick with a quarterback or running back attempting to run away from him. Willing to chase plays downfield with pure hustle. So used to cut blocks that he can defeat them with his hands and work to the ball. Has a twin brother and five-year old son named Nolan.
Shorter interior lineman with only average length and girth. Can be moved in the upper body by better blockers. Doesn’t back down from double-teams but won’t split them, either. Lacks elite athleticism and straight-line speed to track down quicker ballcarriers. Gets up quickly once on the ground, but lacks a burst to reach the ball once it’s out of the immediate area.
Looking at Russell “on the hoof”, as scouts say, he doesn’t look like the sort of stout nose tackle NFL teams would desire. But the All-American’s excellent production (45.5 tackles for loss, 20.5 sacks in his first three years), even at the FCS level, and ability to play two gaps with leverage, violent hands and agility makes him a potential NFL starter in the Kyle Love/Kyle Williams-mold.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.