Today is a very special day. Not only is 5/25/12 the 35th anniversary of the original release of Star Wars: A New Hope, but it also marks 99 days until the kickoff of the 2012 Purdue football season. All across Boiler Nation, football fans are currently rejoicing as the long-awaited road to another glorious football campaign is paved at Purdue.
To celebrate the return of the countdown to football action in West Lafayette, we continue the tradition of analyzing the Boilermaker gridiron warriors whose jersey numbers have fallen on the respective day in the countdown. And as I am not one to break such an epic tradition as the "X Days to Purdue Football" legend, we begin this year's colossal countdown with none other than a rising star for the Boilers, a ferocious monster anchoring the 2012 D-Line and quite possibly a future member of the Den of Defensive Ends: #99 Ryan Russell.
Ryan Russell - So. (RS)
Hometown: Carrollton, TX (Creekview HS)
6'5", 250 pounds
2012 projection: Starter at Left Defensive End
Although he will only be a sophomore this year, Russell enters the 2012 season as the Boilermakers' veteran Defensive End. Due to losing long-time starters Ryan Kerrigan and Gerald Gooden following each of the past two seasons, Ryan is the only returning Defensive End with significant starting time to his credit--which is rather impressive, when you think about it. During his 2011 freshman campaign, Russell was already penned in as a starting End and managed to record 33 total tackles, 1 sack and 3 fumble recoveries in his first full round of college football.
This season, opportunity knocks for #99 as he looks to further his skills and establish himself as a force along the D-Line and an emerging leader for Purdue's defense. Also, Russell looks to get comfortable in a much larger role amongst this fresh group of inexperienced Ends. In essence, the sky is the limit for Ryan in 2012. Expect him to have a breakout year while he continues to grow into his frame and expand upon his already excellent skills and understanding at his position.
Follow Ryan Russell on his Twitter at @RKRelentless.