Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated has a great story this week from Seattle, going behind-the-scenes of KeiVarae Russell's potential return to Notre Dame. The cornerback has been training at NS Performance, about 30 miles away from his Everett, Washington, home. He took spring classes at Everett Community College. And he says he is just waiting on paperwork to confirm his return to South Bend.
“He’s like a caged animal,” said Ted Manson, a local trainer who’s worked with Russell this spring and includes Kevin Durant among past clients, according to the report. “You know when you go to the zoo and see that panther walking back and forth behind the cage? Looks real calm, pacing, but you don’t really want to be in the cage with him.”
The story charts Russell's coping with the fallout of his semester-long academic suspension last fall from Notre Dame, which cost him is junior season. Russell had entered camp last August as a potential preseason All-America candidate before the school announced an internal academic investigation centered around him and three other teammates.
Now it appears that the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Russell could be the only of the four players to work his way back to Notre Dame. (Ishaq Williams' status remains in the air, while DaVaris Daniels entered the draft and Kendall Moore, having already graduated, moved on.) And that would mean big things for an Irish defense that loses just one starter from last season: cornerback Cody Riggs.
Russell started all 26 games through his first two seasons with the Irish, having undergone a mid-preseason camp switch from receiver to cornerback in 2012 after projected starter Lo Wood went down for the season with an Achilles tear. Russell never looked back, becoming a freshman All-American as an integral part of a defense that ranked No. 1 in scoring in the regular season en route to a perfect fall, before losing to Alabama in the BCS title game.
Russell's career totals are 109 tackles (3.5 for loss), three interceptions, 10 pass breakups, 13 passes defended and one fumble recovery. Prior to his suspension, Russell had been talking up then-new coordinator Brian VanGorder's press-coverage philosophy, which puts an even bigger onus on players like himself. Like many at his position, Russell likes to talk. A lot. Reporters appreciated his willingness to engage, along with his openness after games with how he had tried to get in the heads of receivers. (Though he declined to comment beyond his intentions in the above story.)
It appears Russell has taken the short-term memory cliché from his position's mind-set to his Notre Dame comeback. Provided everything goes smoothly in the next month or so, the Irish could be huge beneficiaries of that attitude come fall.