For that, Russell has two factors to thank. First off, junior Jermale Hines has grown into the type of player the coaches want on the field every down and has passed Russell on the depth chart. Second, Russell has shown an alarming propensity to give up the big play in recent games.
Against the Hoosiers this weekend, however, Russell will step back into the starting lineup. The task of the coaching staff has been to show him that they still are confident he can get the job done. Safeties coach Paul Haynes said Russell has been hard on himself since losing the starting job.
"I think it's a little tough but still the bottom line is the team comes first," Haynes said. "I think guys understand that role. I think we preach it enough. Inside, you've got to handle it and move on but there's a lot of football to be played and you never know. You really have to prepare yourself like you're going to play because you never know what's going to happen."
The demotion did not mean Russell never saw the field, however. He remained in the game when the Buckeyes utilized their nickel defense, which has been more than half the time. His 11 tackles rank tied for 11th on the team, three behind Hines.
"The reality is if you look down our schedule there's more snaps out there that are probably going to be played in nickel then there are going to be in base," Tressel said. "What you do is going to be critical."
Tressel said it is unlikely that the Hoosiers will be able to specifically target OSU's safeties this weekend. If they do and Russell has a successful day, Haynes said it would be a more rewarding day for him considering all the senior has gone through to this point.
"There's no doubt because he's a hard worker and he puts a lot of time into it," the coach said. "He's a film rat. He's got the tools to do it. He's just got to make sure that he keeps learning from it."
Is That Your Real Reason? Immediately after the Illinois game, I asked Jim Tressel why he decided to tack on one more touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line. His response was that it was still a three-possession game – OSU led 23-0 – and he did not want to risk kicking a field goal and helping the Illini get back into the game.
On Tuesday, another reporter tried to pull a different answer out of Tressel. It was a valiant effort, but the coach stuck to his initial answer.
Reporter: Did you really think that Illinois could score two or three times in that last couple of minutes? That was your explanation?
Reporter: And that's why you went for the fourth and two or three?
Tressel: Absolutely. We had that discussion. In fact, I even flipped over to the defense.
Reporter: The way they were playing, though …
Tressel: Well, hey, easy for you to say, all you do is cover it afterwards. If they'd have been playing all of a sudden the last minute and a half ...
Reporter: That's a lot of on-side kicks.
Tressel: All you've got to get is two.
Reporter: But, Jim, no second thoughts about having Terrelle on the field and passing for a touchdown with a minute and a half left?
Tressel: No, not at all. We only had Terrelle on the field passing 12 times up to that point.
Reporter: I just wondered, you said after the game that you were concerned about blocking a kick or whatever, but with a wet ball and passing the ball.
Tressel: You mean as far as an interception? I'd have tackled him. No, I wasn't concerned one bit.
Apparently he was not concerned about running up the score or putting his primary offensive playmaker in harm's way a few plays after he had narrowly dodged being hammered by a blitzing Illinois defender.
Sounds like the Buckeyes need to work on their hands team so their head coach won't have so much to worry about.
No Jokes: Defensive tackle Dexter Larimore is one of the toughest players on the team. Listed at 6-2, 300 pounds, he primarily finds himself doing the dirty work in the trenches against multiple offensive linemen.
In his spare time, however, Larimore enjoys sculpting and had one of his pieces of artwork displayed in Washington, D.C. during the past year. Although he admits that it is not the typical hobby for a defensive lineman, he said his teammates do not pick on him for it.
"Big guys don't get picked on too much," he said with a laugh. "Big guys usually pick on people."
On The Bus: The Indiana game marks OSU's second trip away from home this season and comes two weeks after the Buckeyes faced Toledo in Cleveland Browns Stadium. The logistics of playing in Bloomington present the team with a unique situation this weekend.
The Buckeyes will bus to the Hoosier State on Friday afternoon, but their typical hotel in town no longer exists, Tressel said. As a result, they will stay in Indianapolis Friday night and bus to the I-U campus Saturday.
"We have been talking with other teams that played down there and came down to the fact that the consensus of everyone who played down there is that's your best bet," Tressel said. "It just didn't make sense financially to stay closer."
Following the game, the Buckeyes will fly back to Columbus from Bloomington.
It also means no walk-through at Memorial Stadium for a Buckeye team that hasn't been there since the 2005 season.
"I really like going to the stadium on Friday," Tressel said. "Ninety percent of our guys haven't been there. After the game if we don't do well we're not going to say that's why. We've got to get it done."
As for the longer Saturday bus ride, safeties coach Paul Haynes said he has a plan.
"I told my wife I'll charge my iPod," he said.