Film Study - New 2019 Signee Chris Russell
It’s no secret that Texas A&M needs all the linebackers they can get with their two starters from 2018, Otaro Alaka and Tyrel Dodson out, and a general lack of depth at the position behind the two projected 2019 starters, Anthony Hines and Buddy Johnson. Enter late addition to the 2019 class, Chris Russell.
The Dyersburg, Tennessee product had a sensational senior campaign in 2018 earning him a lot of big-time SEC offers. I’m here today to take a look at his film and see what Jimbo Fisher, defensive coordinator Mike Elko, and linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto saw in Russell’s film that made them pull the trigger on offering the linebacker.
Russell’s size and athleticism are on display from the very first play on film. Russell perfectly reads a screen pass, evades a blocker, and makes a one-handed grab to pick off the pass. He then takes the ball about 80 yards to the house. A few things really stand out to me here. First, he has the vision and football IQ to read the play almost immediately. Linebackers have to be able to diagnose plays and Russell does that here flawlessly. Next, the pure athleticism on display when Russell makes the catch is awe-inspiring. Russell is the kind of athlete you always want on the field for your squad. Finally, when Russell does make the catch, he has the speed to leave every offensive player in the dust. The game of football has rapidly shifted towards throwing the ball and in the modern day, linebackers have to be gifted in coverage. With the speed Russell displayed here combined with the quick twitch to make the play on the ball, Russell shows he has the physical tools to be a coverage linebacker.
Now, while linebackers have to be good in coverage in modern football, it's still a requirement to be able to blow up plays at the point of attack. The third play of Russell’s film showcases his ability to do this. Russell does an excellent job of patiently reading the offense and letting the play develop before committing to the quarterback and putting a hit on the kid that I could almost hear over the sound of the video.
If there’s one criticism I do have of Russell’s film, it’s that he may rely on his athleticism a little bit too much. On his film, he tends to use his superior quickness to get around blockers. When he gets to A&M, he’ll have to learn how to take on and shed blockers quickly with his hands as it won’t be as simple to just get around offensive linemen in the SEC. That’s more of a technical adjustment though and you have to think with Russell’s combination of size, athleticism, and football IQ, he’ll be able to pick it up quickly.
Closing on a positive note, it’s hard to instill a natural ability to never give up on a play into players who don’t already have it. Chris Russell is a high motor guy and there’s no better example of this than at 4:58. Russell blitz on the edge while a run breaks through the line and gets to the next level. Russell never gives up on the play chasing the back down before ripping the ball out of the back’s hands giving his offense the ball back. It’s hard to teach that kind of effort and pursuit ability. As any coach will tell you, it’s the little things and Russell following up that pursuit with the successful strip attempt was enough to give him a few extra bonus points on my evaluation.
A&M desperately needs linebackers which is why they loaded up in the 2019 class. Russell is still a bit raw and will take some developing when he gets to College Station, but Texas A&M fans ought to be excited about this one as I believe Russell is one of the best linebacker prospects in this class and is a bit underrated by most of the recruiting services.