Four years ago, Seth Russell was all set to sign with Kansas. He believed in then KU football coach Turner Gill. He enjoyed his recruiting visit to Lawrence. He even struck up a bond with Gill’s receivers coach, an assistant named David Beaty who hailed from his hometown of Garland, Texas.
It was a perfect match. Russell, who committed to KU in July 2011, would join the Jayhawks’ 2012 recruiting class and prepare to compete for playing time under center.
Four years later, you might say a lot has changed. Russell, a 6-foot-3 quarterback with loads of athleticism, is set to enter the fall as the starter at Baylor, replacing Bryce Petty. Russell will guide a team with national title hopes, and take the controls of Art Briles’ turbo-charged spread offense.
“He’s got a tremendous amount of talent,” Briles says.
Russell never made it to Kansas, of course. When Gill was fired after the 2011 season, Russell re-opened his recruitment and chose to sign with Baylor. In college football terms, four years is ancient history. But in simple terms: Russell didn’t quite feel comfortable when Charlie Weis’ staff took over at Kansas.
“I was open after the coaching change at Kansas,” Russell told the Dallas Morning News in 2012. “It just felt like home down there (at Baylor). That’s what I basically based it off of. I just have that great feeling.”
As he prepares for his first season as a starter, Russell is already drawing comparisons to Petty, the prolific quarterback who threw for more than 8,000 yards and led Baylor to consecutive Big 12 championships the last two seasons. On Tuesday, the second day of Big 12 Media Days, Briles was asked to compare the two quarterbacks.
“I felt like I knew Bryce just a little bit better, what his abilities were, how his mind worked, and I thought how he would perform,” Briles says. “With Seth, it’s still kind of a process to where we’re trying to find out exactly how to coach him, what motivates him, what his strengths are, and make sure that we give him opportunities to be successful.”
Last season, Russell displayed glimpses of his talent while filling in for an injured Perry. He threw for 438 yards and five touchdowns in a blowout victory over Northwestern State. He finished the year passing for 804 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception. But now he is the man — at Baylor, not Kansas — and ready for his first opportunity to start.
“The thing that we’ve got to do is make sure that he doesn’t feel like he’s got too much pressure on himself to perform at an extremely high level,” Briles said. “Because with nine back on defense and some pretty good people around him offensively, (he’s) just got to be good. You don’t have to be great.”