Russell Shines In Return As Starter

Senior safety Anderson Russell had one of his most productive games of his OSU career Saturday night at Indiana. The Atlanta native posted six tackles and had a hand in two turnovers in his first start since losing the starting free safety job after the first week of the season.

Anderson Russell's Ohio State career has been lined with ups and downs, and one of the senior's highest highs came last weekend at Indiana.

Russell had a team-leading six tackles against the Hoosiers and had a hand in two Indiana turnovers. He recovered a first-quarter fumble and later intercepted a Ben Chappell pass on the first drive of the third quarter. It was an impressive performance in a spot start. Russell started at free safety in place of fellow senior safety Kurt Coleman, who was serving a one-game suspension handed down from the Big Ten. The Atlanta native began the season as the starter but lost that gig after only one week of the season.

Nonetheless Russell was not boasting about his performance Tuesday night in his first meeting with the media following the game.

"It was just playing football, making the plays that came to me," Russell said. "That's all it really was."

The humble remark probably would not surprise Jim Tressel, who praised Russell Tuesday afternoon during the OSU head coach's weekly media luncheon. Russell was named the team's defensive player of the week for his efforts against the Hoosiers.

"He's going to do everything he can for the team," Tressel said. "Some things, maybe he'd rather not do (like) move out of the rotation a little bit for some reps when we're in base defense and those kinds of things. But whatever the team needs. If he moves out of the reps there, he wants to increase his reps on special teams and whatever it happens to be.

"He's a smart player. He's a team guy. He, I thought, did a good job knowing he kind of had to run the show back there and you need guys like Anderson Russell."

Russell battled adversity in recent months. Ohio State fans remember Russell diving in front of – and missing – a Colt McCoy pass in the Fiesta Bowl against Texas. Instead of sealing a Buckeye victory with an interception, his timing was off and the pass turned into a 26-yard Quan Cosby touchdown with just 16 seconds remaining. The Longhorns held on for a 24-21 victory.

Many Ohio State fans placed some of the blame on Russell following the loss. The Buckeyes themselves were not joining the chorus.

"There was no blame on Anderson, at least on our behalf," Denlinger said. "I don't know what people outside said, but Anderson's a great kid. He's a fighter

Then after a spring and preseason camp in which there were rumblings that his starting gig was in jeopardy, Russell struggled in Ohio State's season opening victory against Navy. The Buckeyes won 31-27, but the Midshipmen abused Russell on a pair of long touchdown passes. Russell was beaten one-on-one twice by slotback Marcus Curry, the first for a 16-yard score and the other on an 85-yard TD play.

Between the Navy and USC games, Ohio State's coaching staff moved Russell out of the starting free safety position and inserted Jermale Hines. Because Hines' strength is not in coverage, Coleman took over at free safety and Hines moved in at strong safety.

Russell took the change in stride.

"It's something where you have to pick up and keep going," Russell said. "I didn't really lose any confidence in myself. I just had a rough game, and the coaches felt like they needed to make a change. That's what they felt was best for the team, so that's what they did."

Even with the demotion, Russell has still seen the field in each of Ohio State's games. He entered each game in nickel situations as a safety alongside Coleman, with Hines moving to the nickel slot. The Buckeyes have used the nickel formation a lot this season, so Russell has certainly not wasted away on the bench. He is tied for fifth on the team in tackles with 17 stops and is still a special teams contributor.

Russell told reporters he does not know what his role will be the rest of the season, but he is happy as long as the team is winning.

"I'm still going to be playing, so you'll all see me on Saturday," he said.


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