Instant analysis -- Defensive tackle is an extremely hard position to recruit, possibly the hardest of any position on the field. It's also a position close to the action, where everything that happens is fast and furious, dramatically increasing the risk of injuries sustained by stepping on someone's foot or having an opposing lineman take out a knee intentionally or unintentionally.
The point is that even though the Longhorns took three defensive tackles in the 2009 class (with Tevin Mims spending some time as a three tech), three defensive tackles in 2010, and received an early commitment from Desmond Jackson, the top defensive tackle in the state in 2011, Texas had such a string of bad luck at the position over several years that depth had been a major concern -- the freshness of that memory almost makes overcrowding.
San Antonio Sam Houston defensive tackle Quincy Russell was the last of the three defensive tackle commits to surface on the radar and it wasn't only the Longhorns who eventually took notice of the athletic interior lineman -- Russell received offers from Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama, Auburn, and Stanford, among others. What initially looked like an easy recruitment for Longhorns drew itself out as Russell explored his possibilities to look for the best fit.
It was in that frame of mind that Russell made his way to Austin for the spring game. His visit confirmed his previous feelings for Texas, described as his leader "all along," and Russell decided to make his commitment official ($) the day after the spring game. It turned out that the Texas offer was just too good to pass up and the proximity to his home in San Antonio helped make the decision easier and keep Russell close to his family.
However, the saga did not end there. His decision ended up leading to one of the strangest days in Longhorn recruiting -- Russell decided that he wanted to take more visits to ensure that Texas was the best fit within 24 hours of making his decision, followed by Christian Westerman's commitment several hours later. The high-profile nature of his recruitment, including more than 20 offers, also factored into his decision to open up his recruitment after getting swept up in the emotions of the Texas spring game.
After Texas quickly cut ties with Ahmad Dixon when he de-committed in the spring of 2009, the obvious question after Russell's decision was whether or not the Longhorns would continue recruiting him. Ultimately, different circumstances around Russell's de-commitment helped keep him on the Texas radar, with the most prominent factor being his honesty about why he was making the decision and about his intentions moving forward.
Russell took several visits over the course of the spring, camping at Texas (where he did not workout), Nebraska and Texas A&M. He largely went silent during that period, declining to name favorites, but expressing a desire to stay close to his mother in San Antonio.
Given that desire and the fact that no other teams established themselves are serious options opposed to the Longhorns, it came as little surprise on Sunday evening when Russell once again committed to the Longhorns following a day of rumors swirling about a possible decision.
Russell joins all-around stud Desmond Jackson as the committed defensive tackles in the class and Texas is almost certainly done now both at defensive tackle and possibly along the defensive line with 22 commitments, leaving only two or spots still available. Though Oklahoma commit Marquis Anderson also received an offer, the Longhorns seemingly backed off in his recruitment, meaning that both of the top targets on the Texas board committed in 2011.
Instant scouting report -- Part of the appeal with Russell lies in his ability to play nose tackle, a position at which it is more difficult to find big, impact players. In comparison, it's easier to find three techniques, especially if the coaching staff is willing to spin down larger defensive ends in pass-rushing situations, a tactic Will Muschamp commonly employs and will likely do so again this season.
At 6-3, 280 pounds and possessing a thick frame, Russell projects as competition for Derek Johnson (if he manages to stay in school), De'Aires Cotton, and possibly Taylor Bible to play over the center. However, Russell has plenty of athleticism to also play the three technique and spend time shooting gaps into opposing backfields. A talented basketball player who received some interest on the hardcourt, Russell was also a sprinter in junior high school.
For a defensive tackle, Russell's stats are striking -- he tallied 87 tackles as a junior, not an unheard-of number for a defensive tackle, but one that speaks to his consistent motor and ability to separate from offensive linemen.
One notable aspect of his film is his ability to play cut blocks -- several teams running the triple option tried to cut Russell repeatedly and the big tackle simply used his hands to discard the smaller players and attack the ballcarrier. The big defensive tackle has the quickness to get into the backfield and pursue plays down the line of a scrimmage, no surprise given his high tackle totals. It's truly remarkable how well Russell moves at his size, a testament to all the time he's spent on the basketball court.
The most important factor in his development at Texas will be his ability to play with better pad level, as well as to more consistently use his hands with violence and proper placement. Known as a raw athlete, it's remarkable that Russell is able to make as many plays as he does while often standing straight up at the snap. As Russell gets stronger and adds muscle to his formidable frame, he could become the type of gap-control tackle every team needs in the middle because he possesses such unique raw strength -- since he plays basketball, Russell has not had the time to fully commit himself in the weight room.
By comparison, Marquis Anderson might be slightly quicker off the ball, but he doesn't possess ideal lower body strength/thickness, limiting his upside and making Russell a more ideal fit next to the athletic Desmond Jackson, a a three technique in college all the way. But don't sleep on Russell's athleticism, either -- the big guy is quick and changes direction well for someone with his mass, two skills that allow him to make plays down the line of scrimmage.
It will likely take him a year or two to develop the strength and technique necessary to compete at the highest level, but Russell has created a positive national reputation throughout the spring and, along with defensive backs like Charles Jackson, Tevin Mitchel, and David Jenkins, is one of the fastest-rising defenders in the state and on the national scene.