More Comfortable

Senior Middle Linebacker Christian Russell admits it took him some time to get all the terminology, fronts, calls, etc., about playing Mike LB in Dave Wommack's defense down pat, but he's confident he has reached that level now.

"I feel a lot better than I did last year my first time around," said the 6-0, 245-pound Russell, who played in all 13 games last season as D.T. Shackelford's backup and produced 23 tackles in limited PT. "I'm way more confident. I know how to run the defense and make the calls now."

Christian, who came to Ole Miss from EMCC in January of 2014, has had two springs a a full season under his belt now.

Knowing what to do has put him in line for quite a bit of playing time, he believes.

"Right now, C.J. (Johnson) and I are going with the Red Team (the ones) and Temario (Strong) and Terry Caldwell are going with the White Team (the second unit)," he continued. "It's a battle. We are all battling for playing time.

"I'm confident I will get a lot of snaps during the season if I can stay consistent. That is my key. You can't make mental mistakes or busts at that position because others are counting on you to direct them. I have made plays this fall and have made the right calls, so I think I'm in good shape right now, but I have to keep playing. It takes a lot of work for it to become second nature, but now that I've gotten it down, I am playing much faster and can turn loose more."

Johnson was moved to MLB in the spring after three years at defensive end, but Christian said C.J. has picked things up nicely.

"He played MLB in high school so that has helped him. C.J. is coming right along," he stated. "I like the way he is playing. He likes middle."

Christian likes the way all the linebackers are developing.

"Denzel (Nkemdiche) and (DeMarquis) Gates and (Tayler) Polk are doing real well outside and our freshman MLB, Sean Curtis, has a lot to learn but I think he is going to be a really good player in time," noted Russell.

Physically, Russell picked up 10 good pounds in the offseason and worked hard on his speed. He is now 245 pounds.

"This is a good weight for me. I'm carrying it well and I feel I am able to get off blocks better. I also feel faster," he explained.

Russell believes he is better and the overall defense is better with more depth, but he also closed with some kind words toward the offense.

"They are running the ball with more determination this year, the linemen seem more physical, there are plenty of great receivers and I think any of our quarterbacks can take us to wins," he closed.

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