Dontavius Russell applies the pressure for Auburn in the season-opener
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ― Auburn defensive lineman Dontavius Russell says he likes having defensive coordinator Will Muschamp on the sidelines.
"When we do something good, he's there to congratulate you. When you do something bad, he's there to get onto you," Russell said.
"It keeps you up."
Russell's play in his first-ever college game last Saturday won praise from Muschamp, and the redshirt freshman will carry that into Saturday's 11 a.m. game against Jacksonville State in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"He played well," Muschamp said. "He's a really good football player. Very intelligent young man. A guy that football is very important to him. A guy that goes out and plays football very well, but a guy that also represents Auburn University in a first-class manner. He's a fine young man."
Muschamp had praise for both his starting defensive tackles: Russell and Montravius Adams, each of whom helped Auburn to a 31-24 win over Louisville. The defensive line, in general, played well, said coach Gus Malzahn.
"They disrupted things," he said.
Russell came tantalizingly close to playing as a true freshman last season after defensive line coach Rodney Garner quickly identified his athleticism. Alas, Russell was redshirted.
Finally, last Saturday, he got to play.
"It felt great to be able to play in front of a real crowd in a real situation," Russell said.
Russell had six tackles, including 2½ tackles for a loss, and that included 1½ sacks. Adams had seven tackles, including a sack. That was more of the same for the veteran Adams. It was new for Russell, who handled the bright lights.
"Our practices are actually faster," he said. "It actually felt kind of slow to me a little bit."
Russell and Adams were two of the most talked-about defensive linemen from the first week.
"I feel like whichever two defensive tackles are out there is a duo because we all play good together," Russell said. "We practice well together, so we end up playing well together."
Muschamp said Adams has the ability to make an impact this season.
"It's hard to coach the size, the athleticism, the flexibility and the speed that he has. He also has very good instincts in playing blocks, so when you combine all those things that God’s blessed him with, he's taken advantage of those now as far as playing harder every snap," Muschamp said. "That was the biggest challenge for him. There's no secret. We've told him that. Everyone knows. To this point, again like I said coming out of camp, I’ve been very pleased with his approach to work ethic and embracing what you got to do to be a good football player, and he certainly has done that."
Muschamp's assessment of the defensive tackles may seem to fly in the face of his game-time TV persona. The kinder Will Muschamp is a plus on the sidelines during a game, Russell said.
"He's always calm about it when he talks about situations that happen on the field," Russell said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine