"You can say they're my No. 1, I guess. If someone asked me what's my college, I'd say Carolina."
Last October, Russell, a 5-foot-11, 221-pound athlete from Raeford (N.C.) Hoke County, verbally committed to UNC. A couple of days later, he recanted the pledge but said UNC was still his favorite.
"[With UNC] I like the atmosphere, the coaches, [and] the players are real nice," Russell said. "They just make me feel at home and that's where I want to be at for college. They have the kind of education I want there, so [that's important]."
Russell now plans to wait until after the football season to make a verbal commitment.
"During the season, I want to stay focused on my season," Russell said. "After the season everything will be finished so then I can put my focus on [recruiting]."
UNC was the first school to offer Russell a scholarship. Since then, seven other schools have offered – Alabama, Duke, Georgia, Miami, NC State, UCLA, and Wake Forest.
Between now and when he commits, Russell will attempt to make as many recruiting trips as possible. He has already visited Alabama, UNC, NC State, and South Carolina, and plans to make summer trips to Florida and Southern Cal.
Additionally, Russell says there's a good chance he revisits UNC sometime soon. He had planned to attend UNC's Spring Game, but a scheduling conflict prevented him from making the trip.
On Monday, John Blake, who is handling Russell's recruitment for UNC, will make an evaluation trip to Hoke County.
Russell says he speaks to Blake regularly, with the last time being a couple of weeks ago. He also spoke to Art Kaufman, UNC's linebacker coach, a week ago.
UNC, like most schools, is primarily recruiting Russell as a linebacker.
"Wherever they want me to play, I'm willing to play," Russell said. "I like both of them. I like running back a little better than linebacker because I play linebacker so I know the holes where the linebackers are looking for so if I can get there before him I can score – that's my mentality. But at linebacker I still like to hit too and knock people out."
Last season, Russell started at both tailback and linebacker for Fayetteville (N.C.) Westover. He rushed for 1,728 yards and 23 touchdowns and collected 136 tackles and four interceptions on defense.
During the off-season, Russell transferred to Hoke County.