April 2, 2013

Film study: D. Russell

Carrollton defensive tackle Dontavius Russell gave Georgia its fourth commitment of the 2014 class on Monday, and it was a huge get for the Bulldogs.

Russell is one of the top defensive linemen in the Peach State, and many, including UGASports, felt the Bulldogs trailed Alabama, Auburn, and Florida for the four-star prospect's services.

Now that Russell has decided to join UGA's class and says his recruitment is over, UGASports takes a closer look at his game as a part of our Film Study series.

Where he is great: You can't talk about Russell without talking about his size. At a true 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, Russell doesn't carry much bad weight and has long limbs. Once he gets in a strength and nutrition program, it wouldn't be a stretch to see him get up to 320 pounds and maintain his quickness.

Quickness is another major strength for Russell. He gets off the ball well but his hands and feet are exceptionally quick for a big man. Once he engages a blocker, he can get off that block quickly and often does a great job of using his feet to play half a man and play through a block.

Russell is also excellent in pursuit. On film he shows the ability to get in the backfield, flip his hips and chase down the ball. That isn't something that 300 pounders are typically strong at on the high school level, but Russell does it very well.

As a tackler, Russell doesn't lunge or grab at ball carriers. He tends to swallow them up in the backfield and he tackles with excellent form. He has the athleticism to square opposing ball carriers up and drive through them.

Where he is good: Russell plays with great pad level and motor. He doesn't stick his head down and bull rush on every play, but he fires off the ball with his head up and his shoulders down. A lot of that has to do with another of his strengths, and that is being able to bend. He has a flexible lower half and can keep his pad level down while remaining under control and finding the football.

The Carrollton native also plays the game under control. When watching film, you'll never see him overrun a tackle in the backfield or penetrate without being able to find the ball and run it down.

Unlike many big, strong defensive linemen at the high school level, Russell doesn't try to play the ball all the time. He engages the blocker, controls his gap and then goes after the football. He plays with great eye discipline.

It may also be important to note that when he gets a chance to play offense, Russell is a dominant drive blocker at the point of attack. On film, he shows the ability to lock on and drive his man out of the play. He can pull and block in space as well.

Where he needs work: Russell has quick hands but he doesn't use them a lot. He has the ability to play with more violence in his upper body, and needs to get better and crossing the face of blockers by using his hands.

At this stage of his career, Russell's ability to rush the passer is power based. He goes through linemen to get to the quarterback, but will need to learn how to get interior linemen off balance with an array of pass rushing moves. Few linemen can stop him from penetrating but he won't be consistent as a pass rusher until he learns how to keep linemen from setting on him consistently.

Overall: Russell is an ideal defensive lineman for Todd Grantham's system. He has the size to play nose tackle but the quickness to play defensive end. Grantham can also use him as a one technique or three technique on nickel downs. Russell is also a coach's dream. He is naturally strong but works hard in the weight room. He is a levelheaded young man that is very coachable. He will do what is asked of him and do it well. He is still a bit raw so it is unclear whether he is working with a great or elite skill set, but either way, he has the ability to be a highly productive player in the Southeastern Conference.

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