NORMAN — Quincy Russell chose to sign with Oklahoma last December because he knew the Sooners would have an immediate need for defensive tackles in 2013.
“His final two were Nebraska and Oklahoma,” said Brad Smiley, Russell's coach at Trinity Valley Community College. “Both of them have major needs on the defensive line. That's how Quincy really got down to his final two. He was looking at the opportunity to go in and fight for a starting job.”
Now that he's finally arrived on campus, Russell can begin battling for that job on a Sooners defensive line lacking in depth and experience.
Russell (6-foot-4, 315 pounds) originally planned to join his new team in January, but academic issues continually held up his move to Norman through the spring, summer and then the first few weeks of fall training camp.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops regularly expressed optimism that Russell would make it, but concerns grew as his delayed arrival began reminding many of last August, when junior-college signees Courtney Gardner and Will Latu, a receiver and offensive tackle, respectively, never showed up.
With Oklahoma's season opener against Louisiana-Monroe just two weeks away, though, how much can reasonably be expected from Russell, at least early in the season?
Stoops said he doesn't expect the newcomer to take long adapting in his new environment.
“I don't want to say it's easy to learn, but basically it's just about technique and the learning part of it, what he needs to do, he'll learn that fairly quickly,” Stoops said. “From what we understand visiting with him and people he's worked with, he's worked really hard and is in really good shape. If that's the case, he'll pick it up rather quickly.”
That's the hope of everyone in Sooner Nation, which remains greatly concerned about its defensive line, and particularly the tackles.
OU lost five seniors from last year's defensive line, returning only junior Chuka Ndulue among regular contributors in 2012.
In February, OU dismissed defensive tackles Marquis Anderson and Damon Williams from the team, a move that left the Sooners with only three tackles on the roster entering spring football.
Coaches moved Ndulue inside from end to tackle, where he's playing with talented sophomore Jordan Phillips, a former four-star prospect who still hasn't come close to reaching his full potential.
Ndulue has beefed up to about 280 pounds after weighing around 260 a year ago.
Even if Ndulue and Phillips produce like coaches think they can, having a junior with Russell's talent and size will be a boon to the defensive front.
Russell, a San Antonio native, originally signed with Texas out of high school, but had to take the junior-college route instead because of academic problems.
During his JUCO stay, he and the Longhorns parted ways, something that continues to motivate Russell, according to his junior-college coach.
“Oklahoma gets to play Texas, and Nebraska doesn't,” Smiley said.
“There aren't many like (Russell) who come through your life and career as a coach. His work ethic is what blew me away. Most of the time, big-time, highly recruited defensive linemen can be a bit of a prima donna because they can. He has an inner drive. In 19 years of college coaching, his inner drive matches those of guys who usually end up at the next level. He's got that. I'm looking forward to watching him at Oklahoma.”