Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Baylor QB Russell planned to be a Jayhawk

Baylor quarterback Seth Russell stretches with the team during warm ups before an NCAA college football game against Texas Tech Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Arlington, Texas.

Baylor quarterback Seth Russell stretches with the team during warm ups before an NCAA college football game against Texas Tech Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Arlington, Texas.


In some sort of alternate universe, T.J. Millweard would be starting for Baylor on Saturday and Seth Russell would be taking the snaps for Kansas.

However, in the current plane of existence, Millweard, who was offered a scholarship by Baylor out of high school, enters this week’s 11 a.m. kickoff against No. 3 Baylor as the immediate back-up to true freshman Ryan Willis, and Russell, who once orally committed to KU out of high school, leads the nation with 19 touchdown passes through four games.

To surmise simply that Russell, had he stuck with his commitment to Kansas, would be doing similar things for the 0-4 Jayhawks is a bit of a leap. But there’s no arguing that the appeal of the shiny quarterback who leads one of the nation’s most high-powered offenses resonates with KU fans who have been forced to witness so many subpar performances from the position in the days since Todd Reesing threw his last pass as a Jayhawk.

It’s important to point out that Russell, a native of Garland, Texas, in a sense, did stick with his commitment to KU. Recruited by current KU head coach David Beaty — then in charge of the Kansas wide receivers — Russell orally committed to the Jayhawks because of his connection to Beaty — they’re both from Garland — and the family atmosphere that former KU coach Turner Gill had created.

Following the dismissal of Gill at the end of the 2010 season, Russell stayed true to KU and made a visit after Charlie Weis was hired to replace Gill.

It wasn’t the same.

“The whole deal was a weird situation,” Russell told the Journal-World earlier this week. “I committed to Kansas before my senior season of high school so, you know, I was pretty dead set on going there. But after the season, coach Gill got released and everything just kind of unraveled. I kept my commitment and stayed strong with Kansas because I wasn’t sure what was going on. I wasn’t just gonna drop the ball and say, ‘Hey, I’m not going there.’ I gave coach Weis complete respect. I came and visited and it just didn’t have that same feeling. One of my main reasons for committing to Kansas was the family atmosphere. I felt like coach Gill had that and coach Weis and I just didn’t really connect on that aspect.”

Had Beaty been retained by Weis, it’s possible that Russell would have stuck with Kansas. After all, as Russell pointed out, “Coach Beaty was always telling me that Garland Owls have to stay together.”

But Beaty moved on to Texas A&M;, Weis hired Rob Ianello to coach KU’s receivers and Russell took advantage of the opportunity to follow Robert Griffin III, Nick Florence and Bryce Petty at Baylor.

Just because that decision worked out so splendidly for the 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior QB does not mean that he didn’t think about Kansas a time or two while he waited his turn at Baylor.

“Maybe in the first couple of seasons I may have thought about that,” Russell said. “But as I continued to grow as a player, I was humbled by the situation that I was in, being around guys like Nick Florence, Bryce Petty, I got to talk to Robert a little bit. It was awesome to be able to watch those guys and how they led on the field and off the field.”

Russell has not just followed in their footsteps. His four-game stretch to open the 2015 season statistically is more impressive than the one any of the other three put up during their days in green and gold.

Only Petty, in 2013, was able to get Baylor off to a 4-0 start. And although he threw for 67 more yards and had a higher completion percentage during the first four games that season, Russell’s 19 TDs nearly double up Petty’s number, and he has out-rushed him roughly 3-to-1.

In fact, other than a slightly lower completion percentage, Russell’s 2015 numbers — 1,281 yards, 19 TDs, 172 rushing yards and three TDs — most closely resemble those thrown up by Griffin’s 3-1 start in 2010, when RGIII started with 1,308 yards and 18 touchdowns and added 173 yards and three TDs on the ground.

“We’ve had good quarterbacks going all the way back to when I was at (Houston),” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “Guys like to come play in this offense, and they’ve seen other guys in front of them have success.”

Now Russell is the one having success. And he hopes to keep it rolling Saturday against the team and coach with which he once nearly joined forces a few years back.

Despite his past connection to Beaty and Kansas, Russell said this week’s game held no special significance.

“Not really,” he said. “It’s another football game. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing against your home high school team or somebody you were committed to. It’s an opponent. And I have to look at it as that and I’m gonna go out there and play just as hard against Kansas as I would in the national championship game.”


Brett McCabe 6 years, 9 months ago

Seems like a good kid. He made the right choice. I'll take Willis.

Ashwin Rao 6 years, 9 months ago

Things happen for a reason! All the best, Willis!

Keith Gellar 6 years, 9 months ago

more support for my point- we should not have fired turner gill. should have atleast given him 3 full years.

Glen Miller 6 years, 9 months ago

Turner Gill never should have been hired in the first place. That was Perkins hiring a personal favorite, instead of who would best lead our team.

Parker JH 6 years, 9 months ago

Over one recruit? The rest of the program was a total train wreck. Half the guys were academically ineligible, strength and conditioning was awful and we were getting out-schemed every week, he had to go.

Keith Gellar 6 years, 9 months ago

no different than what it is know! atleast we would have a good QB which sometimes can make a huge difference.

Robert Brown 6 years, 9 months ago

Half the team was not academically ineligible. Weis kicked 29 players off the team. You can't tell me that many of those are not players he decided to weed out? This program is the disaster it is because of Charlie Weis's personnel decisions and recruiting philosophy. The fact that we have 20 fewer scholarship athletes than the maximum is a testament to these flawed decisions.

In his only full year to recruit, Turner Gill had a great class. If he were given a third year, I am sure he would have recruited a second good class, meaning that had he failed in Year 3, at least his successor would have inherited a cupboard that was relatively full.

Ashwin Rao 6 years, 9 months ago

I agree with many sentiments here... I too fell off the Gill bandwagon too soon (so it seems). He may not have been a great Xs & Os guy, but we now know that he could recruit! Instead of throwing the baby with the bath water, we should have helped him get good game-day coaches to be successful.

David Williams 6 years, 9 months ago

Gill had to go (Chuck Long as OC? Really?). The real problem was Zenger's hiring decision of Weis. It was noted by someone on here awhile back that Zenger realized that he made a mistake only a few months afterward.

The rationale for running off 29 people from the program can be debated, however that to me was and is a surprisingly high number to leave in one year. Were all of those separations justified? I do not know. That, with the flameout of the transfers and Juco guys, put us into the hole KU is in today, which we know.

As someone making a hiring decision, why did not Weis' one year with Florida (not great stats either) after one year with the Chiefs, and a checkered time at Notre Dame not raise questions in the process? The movement does not necessarily bother me per se, however given what happened at ND, then straight to the NFL and then immediately back in D1 as an OC? That's a weird path.

My overall concern with this situation is that, given how bad things are, it damages the KU brand, and yes, as a result somewhat dings the MBB program. Why be a laughingstock in FB, the largest revenue generator in college athletics, while at the same time one of the best D1 MBB programs? Does not make sense from a strategic point of view. This is on the administration. Wondering if a change needs to be made....

Brett McCabe 6 years, 9 months ago

David, I think that the Weis hire was the direct result of one major thing: an extremely successful year as OC with the Chiefs. Weis hated Todd Haley, which is why he was gone in a year.

Firing Gill was not unwarranted. Hiring Weis should have cost Zenger his job. He had a broad array of candidates from which to choose, and he chose badly in epic proportions.

But, again, that's behind us now. The staff here now seems like a step in the right direction. We needed people with enormous energy, passion and perseverance. We all need people who can identify 2-star talent and manage a roster. If we hired guys with all of those attributes, then the program will rebound.

David Williams 6 years, 9 months ago

To me, basing a KU hiring decision on one year with the Chiefs is a highly dubious basis for the hire. He flamed out at ND, then only one year to the NFL and did well although did not get on w/Haley, why go back to D1 as OC? I am not sure I like that profile. As we all know coaching in the NFL is much different than coaching D1 - and Weis absolutely confirmed it at KU with his mismanagement of the offense. The objective rationale just does not make sense, given the state that KUFB was in at the time. I simply believe Zenger has to be held accountable for that decision - it really irritates me. I do not like seeing the KU brand being dragged through the mud and laughed at on College Game Day.

Micky Baker 6 years, 9 months ago

It shouldn't have cost Zenger his job. Zenger was just hired then and had very limited choices. Weis was a disaster and Gill was a surprise. Gill was terrible too.

Robert Brown 6 years, 9 months ago

Gill needed a third year. It is extremely rare to fire someone after two years and I got the impression that Zenger was playing the new AD who wants his own guy. I know there was a lot of pressure to make a change, but you still give Gill a third year. If he was not a good coach, he would have at left his successor with decent talent.

Bryce Landon 6 years, 9 months ago

"If he was not a good coach"??? What do you mean "if"??? He was a terrible FBS coach! Gill was at his best at small-time programs like Buffalo and Liberty; he has no business coaching at an FBS school.

Aaron Paisley 6 years, 9 months ago

Turner Gill should've gotten a third season. The man is a good head coach and has shown that at Buffalo and Liberty. We can mock him being 10 games under .500 in his 4 years at Buffalo, but Mangino was also 10 games under .500 in his first 4 years at KU. A big part of Gill's on field issues was KU didn't have a QB on the roster post Reesing. I would've been curious to see how Seth Russell would've performed in Gill's offense.

With the benefit of hindsight, I would've absolutely given Gill all 5 years instead of Weis given the chouce between the two because Gill was a decent enough recruiter that there would probably be some good players on this team today and there wouldn't be the scholarship deficit that KU currently has either. Of course, I don't think anybody would've picked Gill for KU either because his personality just didn't fit with what KU needed post Mangino. And yes, I still would've gotten rid of Mangino after 2009 except I would've just fired him and not publicly announced the internal investigation and eliminated any disciplinarian style coach as a viable candidate at that time.

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