"That doesn't affect my decision about not going there or anything – I still want to be a Tar Heel. That really doesn't affect how I feel about the school."
Russell verbally committed to UNC almost a year ago but retracted the pledge the next day. The 5-foot-11, 221-pound linebacker from Raeford (N.C.) Hoke County re-committed in early July. Russell acknowledged at the time that assistant coach John Blake played a major role in both moves.
Approximately a week ago, Russell discovered Blake had stepped down as associate head football coach.
"My coach actually told me a couple of days afterward," Russell said. "He just heard it on the news and told me about it."
Since Blake's resignation, Russell has spoken to Sam Pittman, his area recruiter, and Everett Withers, UNC's defensive coordinator. Neither discussed Blake's situation in detail, but they updated Russell on the ongoing NCAA investigation.
"Some players are getting suspended for some games and they'll be fine when they come back," Russell said.
Other schools have attempted to pry Russell from his UNC commitment, including Wake Forest, which he spoke to on the phone recently.
"I'll be respectful and listen to what everyone has to say," Russell said. "But I'm set with UNC, though."
Even before the NCAA probe at UNC surfaced, Russell had planned to take all five of his official visits.
"[I'm taking these visits] just to see what's out there," Russell said. "Everybody doesn't get the opportunity to see other things."
Besides UNC, Russell is considering official trips to Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Miami, and UCLA. All of the aforementioned schools have offered him a scholarship and are recruiting him as a linebacker.
Russell hasn't begun to discuss actual dates with coaches yet. But he would like to take some of those visits during the football season.
This Saturday, he'll be in Chapel Hill, unofficially, for UNC's home opener against Georgia Tech.
On Friday, Hoke County plays Fayetteville (N.C.) Westover, the school Russell transferred from following last football season. Hoke County scored its first win of the season last Friday.
"When we first started out, we didn't have team chemistry," Russell said. "Everybody was trying to find their role. Last Friday, everybody found their role and we started to play together."
Russell starts at both running back and linebacker for Hoke County. In four games, he has rushed for 388 yards and six touchdowns on 73 carries.