Things haven't been easy for Brent Russell since he arrived in Statesboro in 2008.
He got the start on the defensive line against Georgia in the '08 season opener and turned some heads, but suffered an injury against the Bulldogs which he didn't fully recover from until the following fall.
After sitting out the remainder of the season with a red shirt and bulking up in the weight room, the 6-foot-2, 294-pound then-defensive end started the first game of the season again in 2009, and when the dust settled 11 games later, he was named Football Championship Subdivision Freshman of the Year.
Now, he's been moved to defensive tackle.
Despite his personal accolades, the 2009 Eagles finished 6-5 and the entire coaching staff was dismissed. To top it all off, most of his teammates in the 2008 recruiting class, especially on the offensive side of the ball, have either been dismissed from the team or left on their own accord.
Through all the changes, one thing has stayed the same for Russell.
"You never change your philosophy," he said after Monday's practice. "It's always blue-collar work, get after them and keep pushing them."
To first-year defensive line coach John Scott, Russell is summed up by a play he made in Saturday's scrimmage at Paulson Stadium.
"Brent's running a reverse 40 yards down the field and he makes the tackle from the nose-guard position," said Scott. "He does those things. He works hard. I mean, there's some things he's working on to get better at, but he leads by example.
"What Brent brings to the team is just a nasty disposition every time he's out there at practice. He's a blue-collar worker, he gets after it, he does exactly what you ask him to do, he's a very coachable guy and a lot of the guys on the team, they look up to him."
Though Russell became accustomed to practicing against the shotgun, spread offenses of the past two years, he's seen some option-based stuff against the likes of Wofford and Appalachian State.
Still, the dual-slot, triple-option attack GSU has returned to is a whole new can of worms for him.
"I've never seen it like this," Russell said about the option. "It's flowing pretty well and I think it's going to make some big plays for us. I think it's going to score some points and that's all I really care about right now."
And that's the truth.
While the off-season, individual awards have been great, Russell doesn't have the time to think about any of that.
"I don't have any goals set for myself," he said. "It's all about the team right now - getting that ring."
Joining the D-line party
The changes just keep on coming.
Last year's starting middle linebacker Dion DuBose had a change of scenery Monday at practice, working alongside Russell as a defensive end.
"We're just experimenting with some different things today and he got some pops in," said Scott. "He did a nice job for us. One thing we try to do is we try to get the best 11, the most athletic 11 we can get on defense. We're going to mix and match people and move them around."
The Eagles return to the practice field today at 3:45 p.m.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.