Dec 29, 2011, 4:04 PM EDT
Just a few hours before Notre Dame battles Florida State, the Irish won a big recruiting victory over another formidable foe. The Irish received the verbal commitment of Seattle’s KeiVarae Russell, beating out the hometown Washington Huskies for a running back that’s an absolute perfect fit for the Notre Dame offense.
Thin at the position, Russell fills the lightning portion of a thunder and lightning duo of Russell and Ohio’s William Mahone, a more physical runner to the open field nightmare Russell looks to be. The six-foot, 175-pound back might not have the physicality yet to run between the tackles, but the Irish will be able to use Russell in the backfield or the slot, where the dual-threat back can use the open field to his advantage.
Russell had offers from all of the Pac-12 as well as ones from Boise State and Vanderbilt. It was largely expected to be a race between the Irish and the Huskies, with Russell reportedly telling the Irish coaches of his commitment last week.
“There are a lot of opportunities you get having a degree from Notre Dame and being a graduate from there,” Russell said, as reported by Jason Sapp of BlueandGold.com. “Football is never really bad there, but the coaches are working on making the team better and they’re coming back. They see me as a player that can come in and help with that right away. I can play a lot there because they have room on the depth chart for me.”
That depth chart is healing quickly, with Russell’s decision likely giving Brian Kelly more flexibility with a guy like Theo Riddick, a recruit Russell compares to favorably. Off the field, the Irish are getting a leader as well, as the four-star recruit is the class president of Mariner High School and does excellent work in the classroom.
Adding Russell adds another explosive athlete to the Irish roster, posting a 4.5 forty-yard dash, a 38-inch vertical leap, and a shuttle run time of 3.77 seconds at The Opening, a recruiting combine hosted by Nike that was attended by some of the nation’s top players. That type of speed means Russell has the ability to impact the offense almost immediately, even while he works his body into the type of shape it needs to be in to be a featured back.
Russell is the 17th commitment to the 2012 recruiting class, and the fifth skill position player on the offensive side of the ball, joining Mahone, and wide receivers Deontay Greenberry, Justin Ferguson, and Chris Brown. Russell will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on January 7.
Photo of Russell property of The Herald of Everett County.