Russell Ude isn’t ready to decide. Not even close, in fact.
The Atlanta Westminster School three-star defensive end is narrowing his focus, though. The senior has a top eight that consists of California, Miami, UCLA, Penn State, Oregon, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Boston College. He also already knows he’ll officially visit Oregon, Miami and Cal, and will decide which among the five remaining schools will receive his final two in-season trips.
“I want to take all my official visits,” Ude said. “As for a commitment, I’ve tried to set dates and I haven’t been sure enough or something has made me change my mind like a new offer or new development.”
Penn State has recruited Ude since its new staff, headed by James Franklin, was still working at Vanderbilt. After all, the end was one of the first prospects offered by Penn State when its new staff arrived in January.
The Nittany Lions are in the picture because of that frequent contact, but also because of defensive line coach Sean Spencer. Ude said he trusts both coaches along with the rest of Penn State’s staff, but he needed those close to him to see why.
Of course, the Lions staff is well aware that the end couldn’t make it to University Park unless it was on an official visit. But a quick trip to Georgia State back in June, when Penn State assisted at a camp there, allowed his mother to learn about the Lions without leaving the state.
“It was important for her to meet the staff because those are coaches I could see myself playing for because I know they’re honest and have me as a priority,” Ude said. “They know me as a person instead of a piece.”
That’s exactly what he wanted his mother to experience.
“I don’t want to go to a football factory where the football coaches don’t really care about their players,” he said. “If I’m far away from home, I want the coach to be my father away from home.
“They’re people I trust, and I wanted my mom to be able to meet them and see why I trust them.”
Ude added he and Spencer talk every now and again, which is by design. The senior said he knows what the assistant and Penn State are about. Now, it’s more important to maintain the foundation their relationship is built upon and establish a date to visit this fall.
“But I haven’t been up there to see it, and that’s the main thing. We have a good relationship.”
Though he has yet to hit State College, Ude did make a West Coast swing this summer. He recently returned home from a stop in California that allowed him to check out Cal and UCLA.
Both schools offered plenty to see, and each spoke of the opportunity to get on the field early. Their campus settings, and defensive philosophies, have both standing out.
“They’ve got fantastic academics, which is something that is necessary for me and important to my family,” Ude said of Cal. “I’ve always loved the state of California, and the program has good tradition.
“I could come in and turn that place around, and recruit guys and be a big time contributor. The facilities are really nice, and the campus is really cool. I want to be in the city.”
A short drive away, Ude camped at UCLA. There, he learned from defensive linemen Ellis McClure and Jake Jones when he wasn’t chatting with the Bruins’ staff.
“They achieved the things I want to achieve, and it’s really cool,” Ude said. “They are the type of guy I want to become, and it was a really cool experience. I learned a lot.
“It’s always good to get extra work in and learn those things you can’t learn at home. I got experience with doing the things you want to do at the next level.”
Miami has been actively recruiting the senior, as well, and that has the Hurricanes in the mix.
So does the potential for early playing time, which is an important factor in his pending decision, as well.
“They offered one of my best friends, Quenton Bennett, a preferred walk-on spot,” Ude said. “It would be great to have some family there with me. And also Miami, from what they’ve been telling me with the depth chart, there is a huge opportunity for me to come in and play early.
“You don’t want to be in a situation where you can be lost in the shuffle. They made it clear I’m a priority to them.”
Next on the list is Oregon, who Ude said offers an intriguing mix of academics and athletics that falls in line with his goals for the future.
The end said he plans to major in some sort of business/marketing related field, and the Ducks’ sports business program includes much of what he is looking for.
So, too, does Oregon’s defensive philosophy. It preaches versatility, which is similar to Westminster’s game plan.
“The program has a lot of opportunities with Nike,” Ude said. “It would be a really good opportunity for me to gain some experience, maybe an internship and getting those kinds of connections.
“Also, they win a lot of football games and they like to be very versatile with the way they run their defense. That’s one of my best qualities, and I could do a whole bunch of different things at Oregon. It seems very exciting.”
Ude lumped Michigan State and Wisconsin together, saying he wanted both programs to know he still had them on his radar.
“They both have pretty good academics and both have really good football programs,” Ude said. “I put them on the list because they didn’t think I was really interested.
“I want to learn more about the schools, and I’m interested and they offered.”