Russell Ready to Rumble

It seems like all that we have heard about lately are the quarterbacks, the coach's kid playing center and who is returning kicks. Not much attention has been paid to running back Fred Russell. But the compact ball carrier from Michigan has worked his tail off to have a super season. In this premium story, Fred talks about expectations, running against Iowa's fearsome foursome in practice, injuries and his bulked up body.

You come into the season as the clear-cut starter. Do you sense that guys are looking at you in a different way this year as a leader on this team?

FR: They're looking at me for more leadership this year. I'm trying to do my best at being a good leader.

Do you have more confidence this season knowing that you're the guy they're looking to at that position?

FR: Going into the season, I have confidence because I started a lot of games last year. But I'm just going to continue working hard and being a leader by example to the younger guys.

Do you set goals based upon how you did last year or do you just forget last year?

FR: As far as individual goals, I have to wait until I get into the year before I can really get serious about any individual goals because it's up to how your team is winning. And that's when individual goals are accomplished. Right now, my main goal is to get back into the BCS and win a Big Ten championship.

How many carries a game do you have in you?

FR: Twenty five plus, I guess. But it depends on how the game goes to determine how many carries I get. If the pass game gets going, that's less carries for me. If the run game gets going, that's more carries and I might need a breather or something and Marcus (Schnoor) or A.J. (Johnson) come in or Albert (Young). But I think it would be fun for me to go 40 carries one game. I think it would be.

Do you take it as a personal challenge when people say, "Fred is too small or Fred is going to get hurt if you give him too many carries?"

FR: No. If what I did last year didn't prove people wrong, then I don't know too much what to say. People getting hurt, you can't control that. Maurice Clarett, he got hurt and missed as many games as me and he's about 230, 225. So, I think it's just the luck.

With an inexperienced quarterback and line, how important is it for you to set the tone early this week with the running game?

FR: I'd like to bust a touchdown on the first carry. But the only thing about that is that you haven't had that contact (Fred has not been hit in practice this summer). Hopefully by the fourth or fifth carry I feel good. It's like that with me every game. Even when I played in the Penn State game last year it took like two carries for me to get a second wind.

Are you bigger this year?

FR: Yeah, I gained a little bit of weight (Fred looks very well put together). I gained about six pounds.

What did you work on during the offseason to prepare yourself for this season?

FR: I did a lot of upper-body work.

What's the difference in running behind this offseason line compared to last year?

FR: The schemes are still the same. It's not that different.

Are you still seeing the same holes?

FR: Yeah, but it's hard running against our front seven (on defense). I'll see what happens when the season comes as far as there being holes and stuff. But these guys give us a real good challenge.

Miami changed defensive coordinators. Have you guys looked at tape of them in the spring game or anything like that?

FR: We don't know what to expect because they only have like three or four guys returning. From what I hear, the guy (Pat Narduzzi) that they have is from Northern Illinois and that he likes to blitz a lot. We'll see what happens when the game comes, but we really don't know what to expect from these guys. We know that they're going to give their all.

So do you guys focus more on yourselves this week?

FR: We focus on what we've seen last season on film. If they come up with anything different, we adjust.

Do you see yourself more involved in the passing game this season (Fred caught one pass for 11 yards in '02)?

FR: Going into the season last year, I saw myself getting more involved in the passing game. But the way the games were going, there wasn't a call for me to catch any passes. We've got to see how things work out.


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