You’ve probably heard his name by now.
He’s an All-American by just about everyone’s standards, he was a 2010 Buck Buchanan Award nominee for the best defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision and he’s on the watch list for the 2011 season, he’s All-Southern Conference and he led the Georgia Southern Eagles in tackles for loss (18.5) and sacks (8) last season.
He’s Brent Russell, and if you ask anybody, he’s just about the best defensive lineman in the FCS.
Well, if you ask anybody except him.
“I really think [defensive tackle Roderick Tinsley] got double teamed just as much as I did,” said Russell about the 2010 season. “One game, I’ll get double teamed and he’ll have a big game. The next game, it’s vice-versa. Offenses have to choose their poison. Between me and Rod, Josh Gebhardt, John Douglas, Javon Mention, all those guys, they’re going to have all they can handle.”
If you ask Russell, the success of the GSU defensive line comes from its diversity.
“Rod’s got those long arms and that quickness,” Russell added. “I can come off with the power. I think we just throw different things at them.”
Russell’s team-first attitude began after his first-career start at GSU. He played his first snaps as a freshman starter in Athens against the Georgia Bulldogs on Aug. 30, 2008, but was injured in the game and forced to redshirt until 2009.
Russell ended up sharing the rehab experience with a fellow teammate.
“It was me and Kerry Bonds, he played defensive end. We had surgery on the same day,” Russell said. “I went first and he had ACL surgery right after me. During rehab, we just competed every day in the training room. That’s why I’ve come so far. Teammates. They’re out there pushing me and we’re competing every day.”
When coach Jeff Monken took over the program in 2010, team-building was a top priority. He brought all of the players to live together on campus.
“You have to be here to see the difference from my freshman year until now,” said Russell. “My freshman year we lived all over Statesboro. The only time we’d see each other was practice. Now we all live together. My roommates are Hudson Presume, Laron Scott and Josh Gebhardt. We’re all tight. You’ve got somebody getting you up every morning and pushing you harder. I don’t think I could’ve made it through without my teammates.”
Monken preaches that a team needs that kind of unity when it faces adversity on the field.
“I believe it,” said Russell. “We proved it last year.”
Though the Eagles are constantly using words like “unity” and “brotherhood,” it hasn’t stopped the individual accolades from pouring in. Along with Russell’s preseason nods, 12 other players have been named to the preseason All-SoCon team and two — Laron Scott and Brett Moore — were named preseason All Americans.
The Eagles aren’t deaf to all the preseason hype.
“Definitely, you hear about it,” Russell said. “But what I focus on is pushing my teammates. They push me. If all [the awards] happen, that’s going to be great, it’s going to be amazing, but it’s going to happen because of all the hard work we do out here.”
GSU Practice Update
Wide receiver Mitch Williford, who underwent appendix surgery during the offseason, rejoined the Eagles for fall camp Sunday. Williford took sophomore linebacker Michael Spaulding's place on the fall-camp roster. Spaulding left camp with an injury.
Quotable: 'If all [the postseason awards] happen, that’s going to be great, it’s going to be amazing, but it’s going to happen because of all the hard work we do out here.'
— Brent Russell, GSU defensive tackle
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.