It's back! We're officially into double digits for the countdown to the 2014 season. As we begin the countdown I am about as cautiously optimistic as possible. Really, it can't be worse than last season. I am setting the over/under at four wins, with six possible if a lot of things finally begin to break our way. Mostly, I want to see improvement.
One of the players that will have a large role in this turnaround is today's featured player:
Ryan Russell - Sr.
Hometown: Carrollton, TX (Creekview)
6'5", 275 pounds
2014 Projection: Starting Defensive End
As a four-year starter, big things are expected for Russell this season. He needs to be both a leader and a defensive producer, especially after a bit of a down year in 2013. As a redshirt freshman in 2011 he forced and recovered three fumbles and had 33 tackles with a sack. The next year he had 37 tackles, 8.5 for loss, and four sacks, which set the stage for what was expected to be a big 2013.
Russell had 35 tackles last year, but was limited to only two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. Most teams held him in check, and the promise of him being the next great DE in the Den of Defensive Ends fizzled somewhat.
Fortunately, he has one more year to turn that around, and he looked solid in the spring game. He finished with more sacks there then he had in all 12 games last year, and generally looked dominant coming off of the end. Purdue desperately needs that presence again, especially with a young back seven behind him. Russell has to channel his inner Kerrigan and be a guy that demands a double-team on every down. He is probably the most likely player to get drafted in 2015 on the current roster.