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Another day at the office

The nation takes notice of GSU sophomore

Another day at the office

Another day at the office

Georgia Southern defensive tackle Bre...

    Brent Russell knows the Walter Payton Award is a big deal.   
    As a freshman being redshirted after suffering a season ending injury in the opener at Georgia he watched from the sideline as quarterback Jayson Foster won the coveted award which goes to the top offensive player in FCS.
    But, when it comes to the Buck Buchanan Award — uh, not a clue.
    “I wasn’t aware of what it was,” Russell said. “Then someone explained that it was the Walter Payton Award for defensive players.”
    The Buchanan Award goes to the top defensive player in FCS, and earlier this week Russell learned as he was coming off the practice field he had been added to the list of nominees.
    Foster and Adrian Peterson won the Payton Award while playing for Georgia Southern, but no Eagle player has ever won the Buchanan.
    Freddy Pesqueira finished fourth in the voting in 2001, and that remains the best finish for a Georgia Southern player in the 15 year history of the award.
    The 6-foot-2, 287 pound sophomore is earning a nationwide reputation as a player who can disrupt an offense from his nose tackle position.
    Russell will be putting his talents on display at 2 p.m. Saturday at Paulson Stadium when the Eagles (4-3, 2-2) host Samford (3-4, 1-3) which also features a Buchanan Award nominee in linebacker Bryce Smith.
Coach Jeff Monken will be looking for a defensive effort similar to the one he got last Saturday when the Eagles blanked The Citadel, 20-0, coming up with nine turnovers in the process.
    Samford is coming off a bye week, having lost to Furman, 27-10, in its last game. It features one of the league’s top running backs in Chris Evans who is a Payton nominee. 
    While The Citadel displayed a certain amount of ineptitude Coach Kevin Higgins also believed part of his team’s problems could be attributed to Russell.
    “One issue we had was that their nose man was in the backfield a lot, putting a lot of pressure on the center-quarterback exchange,” Higgins said. “So I know we didn’t do a good job inside there.”
    It was Georgia Southern’s first shutout since the 2003 season opener when it beat Savannah State, 35-0. The last time the Eagles blanked a Southern Conference team was in 1999 when they beat VMI, 62-0.
    Film study, Russell and defensive coordinator Brent Pry said, showed the Bulldog turnovers were not all self inflicted.
    “After we got the first three or four I thought ‘gosh are we playing that well or are they just messing up,’” Russell said. “When I watched the film we had some guys putting helmets on people.”
    “There was a play where Brent drove the center into the quarterback and then drove the quarterback into the running back,” Pry said. “What he does doesn’t show up in the stats, but he can impact a football game.”
    Russell has 28 tackles this season, 7.5 for losses, and he has 4.5 sacks. He also has a fumble recovery,
Throw in two pass breakups, two pass deflections and two quarterback hurries and it quickly becomes obvious the former Madison County player is having a stellar season.
    “The thing about being named to the Buchanan list is that it will only compel him to work harder,” Pry said. “He’ll push himself harder. Brent is the type of player who does not want to let anyone down.
    “He’s a very, very unselfish player,” Pry said. “He’s a special guy to us, and there’s no doubt in my mind with his work ethic he’ll be the player he can be.”
    Russell, who was a pre-season All-Socon pick, said while he was honored to be added to the Buchanan list the bottom line was seeing his team be successful.
    “I feel like I’ve had a good season so far,” Russell said. “The defensive line has had some great showings and some not so good. We played a great game at Navy, but gave up yards to Wofford.
    “When we played Wofford I was expecting something like last year,” Russell said. “Their offensive line and their running back (Eric Breitenstein) are really good.
    I’ll judge my year on how the team does. One of our goals was to lead the Southern Conference in turnover margin. We took a big step last Saturday, but we still have a ways to go.”
    Furman and Appalachian State currently lead the league in turnover margin at plus eight. Wofford is third at plus six while Georgia Southern, Chattanooga and Samford are all at plus five.

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