A player that pushed hard for playing time last season before Garner decided to hold him out, Russell has hit the ground running this spring and is setting an example for the rest of the defensive tackles at the moment, including junior Montravius Adams.
“Dontavius has been very pleasing,” Garner said. “I struggled last year whether I was going to redshirt him or play him. I kept going back and forth. He could have played last year and really could have helped us, but the thing is that we had five seniors. What’s the value? Am I just going to burn this year for six or seven snaps a game?“He has tremendous character. He has a great skill set. He’s very humble. He’s very coachable. I think he’s been really good for Montravius — just seeing his development and seeing the plays he’s making out there has gotten Mon’s attention. It helps Mon understand. Here’s a kid that whatever you tell him to do, he goes out there and he tries to do it. He’s going to be a really good football player.”
An Under Armour All-American coming out of Carrollton, Ga., Russell was a longtime commitment to the Georgia Bulldogs before deciding to switch to Auburn just after Christmas in his senior season. Always athletic, so much so he played in the backfield some as a senior, Russell has brought the type of work ethic that Garner covets out of his defensive linemen and it’s rubbing off on the rest of the group.
“It has been really good for Montravius,” Garner said. “Dontavius works hard every day. He brings it every day. He tries to do exactly what you say every day. He is very talented. That has been good for Montravius.”
One of Auburn’s most active defensive tackles last year, Adams finished with 43 tackles, three sacks and eight stops behind the line of scrimmage and showed flashes of what Garner wants from him. Now with Russell showing the way Garner hopes it pushes Adams to much bigger and better things in year three on the Plains.
“I think he’s making steps forward,” Garner said of Adams. “I really believe he’s starting to turn the corner. It was good to bring someone in, that I think in even Montravius’ mind he has to sit there and say ‘this guy is really good’. Playing beside Dontavius Russell has gotten Montravius’ attention because he wants to be the guy, but right now, so far through spring, Dontavius has been the guy.”