"I take the ACT this Saturday," Russell said. "If I get my score [that will qualify me], I'm going home."
"Home" would be UNC, the school he verbally committed to over a year ago out of Raeford (N.C.) Hoke County High School. When it was determined that Russell was a long shot to academically qualify during his senior year, UNC decided not to sign him to a Letter-of-Intent and to place him at Hargrave Military Academy, where he has spent the fall semester.
If he receives the ACT score that will deem him qualified, according to the NCAA Clearinghouse, Russell would enroll at UNC in January.
If he doesn't secure the needed score, Russell, with the help of Hargrave's head coach Troy Davis, will search for a plan "B," which could include taking official visits to other schools. The only thing that's certain: Russell won't remain at Hargrave beyond December.
"I'll have to find other plans to see what I can do," Russell said. "I would probably go home and take some more [ACT and SAT] tests. But after that I'm not sure.
"Coach [Davis] is working on stuff now, but he said he's not trying to talk to me about it, because he wants me focused on getting [the ACT] score right now. If I don't get the score, we'll go ahead and look for plan ‘B.'"
If plan "B" ultimately ends up being his path, Russell shouldn't be short on options. Following Hargrave's Winter Practice on Monday, which concluded with a scrimmage where Russell unofficially collected a dozen tackles and his playmaking ability was on display, several coaches in attendance lined up to speak to him. Among the group of coaches that spoke to Russell were representatives from Alabama, East Carolina, Kentucky, and NC State, as well as a handful of JuCo and Division II schools.
"They were basically making sure [I was going to qualify]," Russell said. "They were giving me their contact card. That was about it."
JuCo programs and several Division I-A schools, like East Carolina, accept non-qualifiers, while Division II schools have more lenient qualifying requirements.
In addition to the line of coaches, Russell briefly spoke to UNC assistant coach Ken Browning before heading into the locker room.
Russell's normal communication with UNC is through Sam Pittman. The two speak every other week.
"We just talk about scores and grades," Russell said. "We haven't really talked about stuff with the head coach."
The uncertainty surrounding UNC's coaching staff has weighed on Russell.
"Hopefully, they don't get a new coach and he doesn't like me," Russell said. "I'm just praying that everything works out."