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Irish A-to-Z: KeiVarae Russell

Aug 20, 2014, 8:26 PM EDT

Notre Dame at USC AP

Inked to help fill a running back depth chart in need of reinforcements, KeiVarae Russell became a cornerback by accident, moving to the position after Tee Shepard failed to make it to spring practice. But Russell became a quick study, filling a gigantic hole at cornerback on the 2012 defense and making 26 straight starts at the position.

Looking like an All-American candidate entering the 2014 season, his future is up for grabs, with an academic investigation going on to determine whether or not Russell broke the rules of the university’s Honor Code.

One of the key players on Notre Dame’s roster and (up until now) a shining example of a student-athlete on campus, Russell’s role on the Irish now waits for the dust to settle on another academic suspension threatening to short-circuit a season before it starts.


5’11 190 lbs.
Junior, No. 6



Russell was one of the top recruits in the Pacific Northwest, choosing Notre Dame as a dual-threat running back over places like Washington, USC, Stanford and Oregon. He was a Top 150 recruit and a Top 5 all-purpose back, as rated by 247. Russell was an impressive track athlete at Mariner High as well, and showed a versatility that made him an easy choice to transition to defense.

As impressive as Russell was on the field, he also dazzled off the field, showcasing a personality that had Brian Kelly raving on Signing Day.

“I think the first thing that hit me when recruiting KeiVarae is his personality, always positive, always talking about the future and what he hopes to accomplish,” Kelly said.  “I love being around young men that have a plan, have an understanding of what their future looks like and how Notre Dame can best help him get there.  Always has a smile on his face, always upbeat and, again, he’s an outstanding player or we wouldn’t be recruiting him.

“The playing ability fits that profile that we’re looking for at the running back position, he lined up in the All‑Star game as a wide receiver, he can play wide receiver, he can play the running back position and also can be a specialist for us, so he is a guy that has the ability to do a lot of jobs for us, if you will.”



Freshman Season (2012): Started all 13 games for the Irish, named to multiple Freshman All-American teams. Had 58 tackles from the field cornerback position and made two interceptions, including one late against USC to clinch a berth in the BCS title game.

Sophomore Season (2013): Started all 13 games for the Irish, making 51 tackles and one interception. Broke up three passes in the Pinstripe Bowl. Also broke up three passes against Michigan State.



Viewed by many to be a potential first or second round draft pick, Russell’s loss takes away the strength of the Irish defense, with Notre Dame short a No. 1 cornerback for as long as the academic investigation continues. With great length, very good speed and athleticism, Russell is only now understanding how to play the cornerback position, a somewhat raw skill-set that appeals to NFL teams looking for high upside players.

Before Friday, Russell was viewed as just as strong of a teammate off the field as on. He was a candidate to be a team captain and likely would’ve been named one had he not be included in the academic query. Russell’s career may be murky right now, but there’s been no indication that he’s going anywhere, spotted roaming the Gug after Media Day proceedings were over.



The academic investigation into what happened at summer school will determine how quickly Russell returns to the field. But a great season could’ve given Russell a tough decision to make, whether to move on to the NFL or return for a senior year. Right now, it’s impossible to look ahead, with no true idea as to what could be ahead for not just Russell, but the four athletes involved in the probe.

The secondary’s poor game against Michigan last season was a glaring weakness on the game tape Russell put together. But his strong finish against Rutgers, where Russell led the team in pass breakups and provided blanket coverage all game, put him in position to have a very strong 2014 season.

Kelly has talked about how impossible it is to replace a player of Russell’s caliber, a cornerback better than any the Irish have had in a long time, according to the head coach. Secondary coach Kerry Cooks has also used nothing but superlatives to describe the Seattle native, a player with the ability to become one of the best in the country.

Again, we’ll have to get to the truth of what happened in the classroom, and just how damning the situation may be. But if Russell is able to salvage any of his 2014 season, the Irish would get a huge boost.



The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza
Chris Brown
Jalen Brown
Greg Bryant
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Amir Carlisle
Austin Collinsworth
Ben Councell
Scott Daly
Sheldon Day
Michael Deeb
Steve Elmer
Matthias Farley
Tarean Folston
Will Fuller
Everett Golson
Jarrett Grace
Conor Hanratty
Eilar Hardy
Mark Harrell
Jay Hayes
Matt Hegarty
Mike Heuerman
Kolin Hill
Corey Holmes
Chase Hounshell
Torii Hunter Jr.
Jarron Jones
DeShone Kizer
Ben Koyack
Christian Lombard
Tyler Luatua
Cole Luke
Nick Martin
Greer Martini
Jacob Matuska
Cam McDaniel
Mike McGlinchey
Colin McGovern
Pete Mokwuah
John Montelus
Kendall Moore
Nyles Morgan
Sam Mustipher
Quenton Nelson
Tyler Newsome
Romeo Okwara
James Onwualu
C.J. Prosise
Anthony Rabasa
Doug Randolph
Max Redfield
Cody Riggs
Corey Robinson
Isaac Rochell

  1. bernhtp - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:20 PM

    There are only a few scenarios under which I can imagine Russell being held out for the entire season (or worse):

    1. Prior history of cheating with an honor offense here.
    2. Long repeated pattern, especially across classes and semesters.
    3. Complicit in a conspiracy to help others cheat also.

    I would be surprised if any of this is true, but I really don’t know.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:28 AM

      solid analysis bern. you sound like a prosecutor at a sentencing hearing, which in all reality is what is likely taking place right now.

      I am itching for the news to come so that the team, the fans and the countless hanging judges in the media can get past it and move on.

    • italianirish - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:39 AM

      4. Sex.

      It was initially rumored this was part of a sex-for-classwork trade. I don’t know if that’s still the case, but this university hates sex. As an RA, one of the freshmen in my section was kicked out of school for a semester for having sex in a dorm room. Also, as a sophomore, my buddy next door was also kicked out of school for a semester for having sex in a dorm room. There was not a lot of “due process” in either case. I could see that factoring into any disciplinary action.

      • bernhtp - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        But for the grace of God….

        But the sex issue does not seem applicable since the consideration here would be going in the wrong direction.

      • jommy995 - Aug 22, 2014 at 12:03 AM

        If you were supposed to have sex in a dorm room, God would’ve made em big enough at least for a double bed.

  2. johngaltisspeaking - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    I bet he is beyond pissed and is looking to jump ship once his name is cleared.

  3. liv4nd - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:05 PM

    I’m gonna say it. I’ve been holding back. KR? DD? These guys have zero insentive to straight up cheat. Don’t give me this “their schedule is so hard they don’t have time BS”. They have full time tutors and anything and everything they need academically at thier fingertips. They don’t have to cheat…if it is so clear that they did why is it taking soooo long?

    I run two businesses, married, own a home, and have an 11 year old daughter & 8 year old son…I am 4 classes away from my MBA at 39 years old, no tutors, no special assistance, etc. I still find time for myself. Either these kids are the dumbest and laziest people on earth or this is a witch hunt.

    Make a decision ND! Did they cheat or not??????????????????

    • dillonbigred - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:05 PM

      Be careful getting off that horse.

      • liv4nd - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:17 AM

        I’ll admit when I’m wrong. Reading this post again this morning makes me cringe a little. It had been a loooong day but no excuse. I don’t know these kids. None of us do. Judge lest ye be judged.

    • dickasman - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:51 AM

      They’re dumbest laziest kids on earth. You obviously don’t have a clue. Trust me.

      • liv4nd - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:23 AM

        Sarcasm escapes you doesn’t it?

    • tucsonfan - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:51 AM

      Golly, don’t let that halo slip.

      What I do agree with you is regarding how long this is taking. That’s unconscionable. Totally unfair to everybody. Make a decision ND, quit dragging this thing out to the 10th decimal place for crying out loud.

      • liv4nd - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:22 AM


    • mtflsmitty - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:12 AM

      Possibly the douchiest post Ever.

    • hui73 - Aug 21, 2014 at 8:04 AM

      incentive or insentive?

      • liv4nd - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:21 AM

        Yeah…got me on that one…One word. I must be a moron!

  4. liv4nd - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:28 PM


    This is the type of player that is NOT doing College level course work…let alone ND school work!

    by comparison this is This is KeiVarae Russell…

    • DPU Man ND Fan - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:48 PM

      What a sharp, good looking and talented kid Russell seems to be. I don’t know if he made a mistake here or not – I sure have made plenty in my life – but I wish him success however this turns out.

      • johngaltisspeaking - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:54 PM

        Sounds like the ND Alums are already talking up the two so called innocent cheaters. Where is all the inspiring talk about Ishaq ?

      • mtflsmitty - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:09 AM

        If he’s innocent, welcome back to the team, slap the ass and move on. Sucks you were called out improperly. But stuff happens in life. You’ll be a millionaire in 18 months. Chin up.

        If he did cheat, he needs to accept whatever punishment is due. If he’s guilty of something worse (was part of a larger conspiracy to aid teammates etc,) I would support expulsion. BTW, I have not made any effort to gain any insights on what may or may not have happened. So not assigning any guilt at all. I don’t know anything.

        I guess I’m just surprised that anyone here would comment that he seems sharp and how good looking he is. Who cares? IF he’s guilty of something bigger than an individual violation, then he not only put himself at risk, but 100 of his teammates and 100’s of others associated with the program. Not a leader. Not a stand up guy. Not someone I’d want to hire. None of us would cut FSU any breaks because players were articulate and well dressed.

        Hopefully, none of this is the case. But just had to speak up on that one.

        I used “FSU” and “articulate” in the same sentence. Rare.

    • johngaltisspeaking - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:52 PM

      So why are they labeling this kid as a cheat. Its complete BS from the University. Like ESPN said ND must be100 percent that these kids cheated. If this is the case then why do they have to string this along its absurd. If the kids are innocent I would get the best attorney I could find and completely slam ND. Either way Nd looks like the first video the cheater is the second video. Who is on trial Biatch.

    • blackirish23 - Aug 21, 2014 at 7:59 AM

      1. I’m not the biggest FSU fan but that was a totally classless move by Heather Cox to ask those kinds of questions on the field. Not the most appropriate forum.

      2. I don’t think the ND athletes are being labeled as cheaters. Innocent until proven guilty has to mean something, and all I’ve been hearing is players being suspended during an investigation, not an indictment on guilt or innocence.

      3. As evidenced by all the attention, ND is always under a lot of scrutiny, and even if the university has enough evidence to prove these students are innocent, I wouldn’t be shocked if they are taking their time to make sure they’ve looked at absolutely EVERYTHING. However, this is ND. If the investigation lasts a week and the students are found innocent, the haters will say ND rushed the investigation to get the athletes on the field. If they take too long, the haters will complain. If the students are found guilty, the haters will do cartwheels. So in the end, ND will and should do what is right for ND and the students, because haters will always hate.

      So to ND, I would say investigate away to your hearts’ content, and whenever you arrive at a decision, the faithful will handle your verdict with class, and the haters……oh well….do what you will.

  5. papadec - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:31 AM

    I pointed out, in an earlier exchange with nudeman, on another blog that the general student population isn’t due back on campus until tomorrow (Thursday) – well today (it’s now Thursday in the Pacific NW). There may very well have been students that needed to be questioned, that weren’t available until now.

    • sfnd - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:20 AM

      General student population is not back until Sunday. International students, transfer students, and aspiring band members are on campus. Frosh arrive Saturday. Returning students are not allowed in the dorms until Sunday.

      • papadec - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:44 PM

        My misunderstanding – a family friend is in the accelerated MBA program, did the 1st year this Summer, and is returning for the 2nd year today. I thought everyone was going back today. None the less – I expect the administration is waiting to talk to any students, not already on campus, that may in some way be involved or have information regarding the allegations.

  6. yaketyyacc - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:20 AM

    Cheating! who decides what is cheating, and is this made clear to the student. there is the golbidigook in the rule book given upon entering ND. As a student, I read it, and shook my head. Basically, cheating exists if ND says it does, that is ND’s definition. And if so, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist a long long time to determine if it has taken place.
    And if it has, just how serious is cheating. Aren’t the underage students drinking, cheating? if caught, a slap on the wrist, and just don’t get CAUGHT next time. Is bringing booze back to the campus, cheating? is having a student aide correcting papers for the same class he is in, and giving a fellow classmate a lower grade so his is top, cheating. all this goes on all the time, and you do not see investigations of any of them.
    give these players a break, not a free pass, but let them say mea culpa, as all of us cheaters do, when we violate the Ten Commandments. Unless of course, the Priests of Notre Dame are higher then God, and have ruled out the sacrament of Reconcilation.

    • blackirish23 - Aug 21, 2014 at 8:00 AM

      You honestly can not be this naïve.

      • 1historian - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:02 AM

        I’m afraid he can.


  7. goirishgo - Aug 21, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    Russell will be a huge loss if suspended. He’s the best DB on the team and will not be replaced by a player of equal ability. That said, the opportunity will be there for Luke and other younger players to step up. As always, I am excited about the season but the youth and lack of depth on defense is worrisome to me. Given the schedule I’d sign up for 9-3 in a millisecond.

  8. domerboyirish - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    Innocent until proven guilty? This is where I get confused. They are being punished right now! If the university doesn’t have any clear cut violations, and needs to ‘investigate’, then why can’t the players practice with the team? I believe (just a hunch) that these guys are guilty of something, otherwise they would not be suspended from practices.

    I can’t imagine the outrage of the players and coaches if they are cleared from any wrong doing because it hurts the football program. Jenkins and Swarbrick seem too smart to allow that scenario to play out. THAT’S why I’m assuming they have them on something. Otherwise we come out with egg on our face.

    Now I’m just waiting for the severity and the duration of the punishment.

    • blackirish23 - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      The same reason a faculty member, a police officer, or a CEO of a company are all placed on administrative leave while being investigated regardless of innocence or guilt; to avoid the distraction and possible coercion by the accused to influence their co-workers who might be interviewed during the investigative process. At least that’s my guess but I’m not a lawyer….

      • domerboyirish - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:15 PM

        I can see your point. Maybe I’m simplifying the problem because I’m not a litigious person and don’t think at that level. It just feels wrong.

        I feel the need to help educate the 6th grade minds on this board. John, let me save you the trouble of looking this up:

        Litigious: li•ti•gious.
        concerned with lawsuits or litigation

  9. thomreece72 - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    Honor Code Violations have to go before the Honesty Committee to be heard, said committee has four students on it. As students are not required to be on campus until today it would have been hard to hold a meeting prior to this afternoon and that is only if all the facility members are back.

    What more should be mentioned? The fact that ND needs this to be 100% above board if they allow the players to return, so the gap in time at minimum gives the illusion of due diligence. While legal representation is strictly forbidden in the Honor Code procedure, it is not unheard of for a projected first two day draft pick to sue a University for lost income so the ND legal team has to be pushing for a very complete investigation. Finally the violation report was likely made by a student, a student that would not want to be identified. So they must conduct things in a way to allow for a certain level of privacy.

    In the end, unless these gentlemen have previous violations or the actions are as cut and dry egregious as Golston’s were it is doubtful any of them miss an entire season. I would think whatever the actions are they are not as significant as daily violations in the SEC (Johnny Football took $ and missed a half?) and ND will enact stricter punishment than the NCAA.

    We are ND and we will prevail.

    First post

    • johngaltisspeaking - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:04 AM

      IF that is the case then these kids should be practicing until the lazy students get back to campus. Present the data today and come up with a answer.

      • dbldmr - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:29 AM

        Okay…you win. I can’t take it any longer.

        You have to be the most obtuse poster on this, or any website. When there is a potential violation, as blackirish said above, it is common for the person being investigated to be placed on administrative leave. I believe that is what has happened here. The four students have not been separated from the university. They are not permitted to participate in football practice until this has been adjudicated. If there is a violation then doing this will insulate the team from any further potential problems. The accent is on IF there is a violation. Simple, easy to understand, at least for most readers.

        Your posts are like a sore tooth, annoying but impossible to ignore. The excessive love for the SEC, the constant complaining about Kelly’s recruiting, the stupid pronouncements as to who is going to transfer are repetitive and meaningless.

        Do us all a favor, pick a school from the SEC and follow it. Stop. Posting. Now.

      • nudeman - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:51 AM

        thom reece … best and most informative post here yet, with bern a runner up.

        Only thing I’d add is that the students on the committee coming back is no guarantee of an immediate resolution. This could be much more complicated than we know and still take days. Remember all the predictions that Russell would be cleared Monday?

        dbldomer … why even respond to this one trick pony? Exactly what he wants.
        You’re WAY better than that.

      • domer77blowsgoats - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:07 PM

        nudeman – worst and least informative post here yet

        “…no guarantee of an immediate resolution. This could be much more complicated than we know and still take days.”

        1. exactly what was said in presser
        2. We know nothing, absolutely zero, zilch – so obviously going to take days
        3. We do however know that TR sucks, Kelly was his godfather and Crist was given too short a leash

      • don74 - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:32 PM


        Nude can fight his own battles. That said, I find it ironic that your constant hammering of Nude is as old Nude’s TR rants.

        Why you have made it your personal mission to hammer one person is your business.

        All of us that go to this site every day throughout the year and take the time to post are slightly obsessive about something that has 0 impact on our lives, professional gamblers excluded.

        Nude’s not going away. I am sure you are not going away but why have you taken the self appointed role to hammer one person who doesn’t meet your standards for commenting is weird.

        I don’t understand Nude’s constant thing with Tommy but I find your fascination with Nude far nuttier.

      • nudeman - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:06 PM

        Thanks for that
        Unfortunately though I have minimal expectations of your words of wisdom having any impact.

        We’re dealing with someone who got into a beef here years ago and changed his screen name to include “blows goats” and also adopted an alternate personality/screen name (UAW) so he could write comments of support to himself.

        2 parts Sybil and 2 parts Adam Sandler, with a dash of Roseanne Barr.

      • domerboyirish - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:48 PM


        Sorry, I’m just trying to help John here. He’s not too bright you know.

        make a formal judgment or decision about a problem or disputed matter.

  10. fnc111 - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    A big Key to the season.

  11. johngaltisspeaking - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    Call In Damage Control – Tillary is taking a visit to both Texas and LSU. The cheating scandal is giving many recruits second thoughts on a school who accuses its players before any proof is brought to the table. DD Father has hired an attorney and is pissed off. I think this stupid self imposed BS is gonna hurt ND on the recruiting trail. I am convinced that the powers that be at ND want to bring the Football program to the Harvard and Princeton Division.

    • don74 - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:35 PM

      Can you please change your name to Chicken Little. Thanks, I’ll hang up and listen.

      • nudeman - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:49 PM


  12. irishdog80 - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:54 PM

    Based upon the fact that the students are starting to come back to campus…primarily Freshmen Orientation staff at this time, classes start on Tuesday and we have a game next Saturday, it makes sense they would have this situation resolved by Monday afternoon. If they don’t, I imagine the four involved will have to start missing classes and it will only get more complicated.

  13. lightskin350 - Aug 23, 2014 at 5:21 AM

    As a lifelong Irish fan it pains me to watch this program provide ammo to its rivals. Notre Dame completely screwed up with this situation and they know it.

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