It's that time of year again, and there's no better way to start getting ready for a new era in Purdue football than by looking at the player who might be the next member of the Den of Defensive Ends.
The wait is finally over! After watching all the fine work that new coach, Darrell Hazel, and his staff have done to reinvigorate the Purdue fan base and prepare the team for a new era, the true starting line is finally in sight. Luckily for Purdue fans #99 belongs to Ryan Russell, a player who has that rare chance to be a truly special football player. Now without any further ado, it's time to begin the Hammer and Rails Countdown to Kickoff:
Ryan Russell - Jr.
Hometown: Carrollton, TX (Creekview)
6'5", 275 pounds
2013 Projection: Starting Defensive End
In football, there exists a player who could be called "The Big 4-3 Defensive End." That player for all intents and purposes is Ryan Russell. Here's a quick run down of some of the players in the NFL right now who would qualify: Jared Allen, 6'6", 270, Jason Pierre-Paul, 6'5" 278, Julius Peppers, 6'8" 287, Justin Tuck, 6'5" 268.
At 6'5", 275, Ryan Russell would appear to fit perfectly as the prototype of that type of player. This is not to say that Ryan is the same quality of player as these guys...yet. He has shown quickness and burst that are surprising from a player that big, and with his size and strength he is able to play the run as well as the pass with equal ferocity. Whether he's rushing outside, bulling through opposing tackles, or knocking down passes, the potential of a player like Ryan Russell is off the charts, and we've seen him tap more of that potential each year he's been at Purdue.
In his first year on the field, Russell appeared in 13 games and made 11 starts at defensive end. In those appearances he recorded 33 tackles, 4.5 of them for loss, 1 sack, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 fumbles recovered. Last year he was even more explosive, increasing his numbers to 8.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks, while showing flashes of the brilliance that gave Purdue fans hope for the future.
This spring he won the Pit Bull award from the new coaching staff for sustained tenacity and intense play throughout spring practices, and just in case you think I'm overstating Russell's place on Purdue's team, in the player run draft for the spring game teams it was Russell taken number one overall. Proving his teammates' judgement correct, in the spring game he recorded a sack, a forced fumble, and a pass break up.
Looking ahead to the upcoming year it's tough not to get excited about the player Russell is turning into. He's worked hard to become stronger this offseason and he looks to be fully healthy for the upcoming season. As a player who is well aware of Purdue's pass rusher tradition, it's starting to look like Ryan Russell might be about to add his own chapter to the Den of Defensive Ends.
You can follow him on Twitter at @RKRelentless