Game Changer

In his weekly recruiting column, Dudley E. Dawson chats with Shreveport (LA) Evangel punter-kicker William Russ (6-4, 170), one of three official visitors to the University of Arkansas this weekend. This story is free and sponsored by the Arkansas Toyota Dealers. Click on the Arkansas Toyota banner.

In recruiting, the term game-changer is often used to refer to a skill player on offense or a defender that disrupt.

But that term could easily describe a young man taking an official visit this weekend to the University of Arkansas – albeit he would just be on the field for a few plays.

Shreveport punter/kicker William Russ (6-4, 170), one of four players set to visit officially this weekend, is someone that could definitely elevate both the punting and kickoff production for the Razorbacks.

"I think Arkansas had a great program that is on the rise, it's a great school that has the (landscape architecture) major that I want, it's in the SEC and close to where I live and I know there is a chance to come in and make an impact right away on both punts and kickoffs," Russ said Thursday night. "So I am very interested in taking it all in this weekend."

Russ, who will also play college baseball, joins Evangel teammate and standout defensive tackle Brandon Jackson (6-4, 270) and Cape Coral (FL) Baker cornerback Joseph Byrd (6-0, 180).

Russ, who averaged nearly 45 yards a punt this season and routinely kicked off through the end zone, took in the Razorbacks' 33-16 win over with South Carolina while in Fayetteville on Nov. 7.

"I came to Arkansas' game with South Carolina and just loved everything about it," Russ said. "The fans were great and it was a big time atmosphere, the coaches were great and it was cool being around the players. Now I get a chance to look over everything."

Freshman walk on Dylan Breeding averaged 38.7 yards per punt this season and Alex Tejada and Cameron Bryan combined for four touchbacks during 13 games while their foes had 12.

"I know I would be given a shot to punt and kickoff right away and the coaches tell me how I could be a big weapon for them," Russ said.

Hang time on his punts is certainly a strength for Russ, who has been timed at 5.2 seconds.

"Anything that's 4.7 and up is very good and 5.0 is exceptional," Russ said. "I got timed at Chris Sailor's (kicking camp) and it was 5.2 and I think I am pretty consistent at that."

He does want to speed up his time from snap to actual boot.

"I think that is an area that I will be working on all spring and summer long and want to get quicker at," Russ said. "I didn't have any blocked this season, but I know I can get better."

Russ has been talking to both the UA's football and baseball coaches, including the third baseman/pitcher chatting with Razorback diamond assistant Todd Butler earlier this week.

Evangel baseball teammates Bronson Gilliam and Jeff Harvill have already signed with Arkansas.

"He said they he was talking to Coach Petrino and getting it all worked out so I can play both," Russ said. "Arkansas has a great baseball program and we've got some guys that are coming up there. I think both programs are going to have great success."

Russ, who has seven scholarship offers, was 10 of 16 on field goal attempts this season. He has kicked the past two season without the tee that is allowed in high school.

He has visits set up to Arkansas this weekend and then Vanderbilt, Miami and Louisiana Tech the following weekends.

"All of those schools have the opportunity for me to come in and punt and kick off right away," Russ said. "Miami will have a senior coming back so they are looking more at me just kicking off."

Russ watched Arkansas downed East Carolina 20-17 in the Liberty Bowl.

He saw Tejada win the game on a 37-yarder in overtime in a game where his opposing kicker missed three potential game-winning field goals.

"It's a pressure spot, but you have got to be ready," Russ said. "I'll be honest. I love the challenge. I would much rather it be a pressure kick because I love to step up to the challenge."

William Russ

Brandon Jackson

Paul Crawford

Joseph Byrd

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