Just mention Purdue’s heralded “Den of Defensive Ends,” and a Boilermaker defensive end’s eyes light up as he rattles off all their names.
Sophomore Ryan Russell is looking to add himself to the list by the time he exits Purdue.
“I look up to all of those guys,” Russell said. “I’ve watched all of those guys play in college and in the NFL and I definitely look up to trying to join those guys one day.”
The Carrollton, Texas native said the “Den of Defensive Ends” wasn’t stressed in his recruiting process, but it was part of the research he did with his mother.
“That was definitely something that helped with my decision to come to Purdue,” Russell said.
Russell burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2011, making 11 starts and compiling 33 tackles.
At six-foot-five and 275 pounds with athleticism that includes a 4.6 second 40 yard dash and a 36 inch vertical, hopes are high for Russell to be the next great defensive end to play in West Lafayette.
“It’s a blessing just to be in the same sentence as the guys in the Den,” Russell said. “My teammates definitely do a great job of talking me up and highlighting me. My coaches have a lot of faith in me. I just want to make the plays I’m supposed to make.”
Hope said Russell is very similar to SI.com preseason All-American defensive tackle Kawann Short, in that consistency is crucial to his success.
“When (Kawann) is playing the best, he is the best,” Hope said. “When Ryan Russell is at his best, he can be the best. If they can be the best on the consistent basis, they can be the best that’s out there.”
Russell will be counted on to improve a Purdue pass-rush that manufactured only six of its 22 team sacks from the defensive end spot last season.
“Ryan Russell has excellent pass-rushing potential,” Hope said. “We’re in better shape (at end) this season than we have been in a while.”
Quarterback Rob Henry singled out Russell as a player who has stood out during camp.
“He’s going to have a big year,” Henry said. “He’s going to be an elite defensive end, not only in our conference but the entire nation.”
Russell said he’s ready for the season to start to showcase not only his personal upside, but the team’s potential.
He said he will benefit from playing alongside a talented defensive line that includes projected first round pick Short and Bruce Gaston.
“I’m betting all my money that other teams at least try to double team and contain those two,” Russell said. “KK being a future first rounder and Bruce in his own right being a future draft pick. Now is the time for me to shine.”
At 275 pounds, Russell is larger than the typical Purdue defensive end. He thinks that size gives him an “edge” to the position.
“All of the guys in the Den have had their own advantages,” Russell said. “Ryan Kerrigan was super strong. Rosevelt Colvin was the fastest person off of the ball. You just have to work with the edge that you have. I’m definitely glad I have my own edge.”
Hope said Russell will be one of the great defensive ends to play at Purdue by the time he graduates.
“He can be a dominant player,” Hope said. “He’ll be a great player ... I really believe that. We need that to start happening now. He can really be a difference maker on our football team.”