J.R. Russell talks about the upcoming season

ITV visited with J.R. Russell on Tuesday and discussed his improvement over the spring, team expectations and more.

Junior receiver J.R. Russell had an impressive spring and has seemed to solidify himself as one of the go-to receivers this fall. He's had a few clutch receptions during his first two years on the field, with none being as big as his fingertip reception in the end zone at conference rival Southern Miss last fall.

As a sophomore last season, Russell finished fourth on the team with 24 receptions for 287 yards. At 6'3 and 190 pounds, Russell is a great target, especially for a young inexperienced quarterback, which the Cardinals will have this season.

ITV visited with Russell on Tuesday and discussed his improvement over the spring, the coaching style of Paul Petrino, team expectations and more.

ITV: You had a really strong spring practice. Did you change anything in your preparation or focus during that practice period?

Russell: Really I just came out knowing that I had something to prove because we had a new coaching staff. I knew what I had to do and what I could do, so I knew that was the time to come out and make a real impression.

ITV: With the new coaching staff coming in, did you see that as an opportunity?

Russell: I knew what I could do, but with a new coaching staff everyone started over with a fresh clean slate. Nobody could make excuses for anything at that time, so I felt that I had to prove myself.

ITV: There was an obvious change in how the current coaching staff conducts practices and what they expect from the players.

Russell: They have shown us that when you make a big play that it's important to act like you have done it before. That's one of the biggest things that I have noticed between last year and this year. Do what you know how to do and be humble about it. It was a new experience, but it was something that we needed. Its starts with the older players, so when the younger guys see it they will know that the coaches really mean it.

ITV: What is your impression of Paul Petrino as your receivers coach?

Russell: I really like this coaching style because it is about production and about doing the right thing. They don't care who you are. If you don't produce you won't be playing and there isn't any favoritism. Whoever produces is going to on the field and I really like that.

ITV: I've noticed that the receivers have continued to work together throughout the summer. Have you built a strong relationship as a group?

Russell: A lot of it now is my class and when we came in. We are the upperclassmen now. We've been going out all summer and everybody has really gelled together and we have that team comradery, which is important to have during the season because it will help us all get through any tough times that might happen.

ITV: How do you feel the receivers as a unit will do this season?

Russell: I'll always have faith in our receiving corp. You have a lot of young guys with experience like Joshua Tinch , who played a lot last year, I played a lot. We also have Broderick Clark who is going to play a lot at receiver this year.

ITV: What would you say your strengths are?

Russell: Just going and getting the ball. I'm a big guy and a physical guy, so I'll just go after it wherever it is. When it thrown at me, I look at it like the ball is mine and nobody else can get it.

ITV: What goes through your mind when the ball is thrown high across the middle and you know that there are a couple defensive backs headed your way?

Russell: A lot of people think that when it's a high ball that you need to look out for the defensive backs and they could kill the receiver, but I'm a big guy and it's going to hurt them to. It's just a matter of playing hard and not thinking about getting hurt. That's all it is really, you just have to play hard every time.

ITV: What are your expectations for the team this year?

Russell: Conference championship. To get back on top as conference champions. We had a chance to do it last year, even with all of the stuff that happened, but we let it slip away. We feel like we should always be there and that the main goal is to always win the conference championship.

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