In this series we are going to break down the highlight tapes of some of TCU’s top recruits from the class of 2023. Before we get going I’d just like to make a couple of notes.
- A quick intro - I spent the last 8 years coaching high school football here in Texas (mostly at the 6A level in DFW). My goal with this series is to give you some insight on exactly what coaches are looking at when they recruit a player.
- Highlight tapes are more representative of potential than ability. We have to keep in mind that this is a collection of a player’s best plays from a season, not their entire body of work. So, when watching highlight film we are more focused on potential. In the era of the transfer portal it’s becoming less and less common for true freshmen to find playing time immediately.
- While highlight tape is more representative of potential, we can still gain a lot of information about current ability.
To start, we will be looking at TCU’s top recruit from the 2023 class, Cordale Russell (North Mesquite HS, Mesquite, TX). Russell finished as the #5 wide receiver in the class according to On3, and they ranked him as the #42 overall prospect.
If you’re following along on with this highlight film, I will list the start time of each play I’m discussing at the beginning of each section.
0:11 - The first thing that jumped out to me was Russell’s size. Listed at 6-4, 205 pounds on the TCU website, he looks every bit of it on film. There’s a popular saying amongst coaches that goes “you can’t coach size,” and that is always something that’s considered at the Power Five level. This first play is a simple vertical route. The ball is underthrown, and Russell goes up over 2 defenders to come down with the ball in the endzone. Personally, I love how he truly high points this ball. Russell is at the max height of his jump when his hands hit the ball which is exactly what coaches want. It’s also surprising how many kids cannot do that today.
0:23 - Russell is the 2 receiver at the top of the formation here. Not everyone does it, but it’s always valuable when you have a receiver who can line up in multiple places. This is a simple smash concept (hitch/corner) and once again he goes up over 2 defenders to high point the ball and come down with it for a touchdown.
0:35 - This is a great highlight clip. Russell is the 1 receiver to the top of the formation and they run a simple tunnel screen. This concept is simple, but it is often not executed correctly. The 2 receiver blocks the corner, the 1 receiver catches the ball inside of the corner and then makes a move towards the sideline. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen receivers take off towards the middle of the field after making the catch on this play. Then, it’s Russell 1 on 1 with the safety, and he’s going to win that battle more often than not. This play also allows Russell to showcase his speed as he outruns the entire defense after making the safety miss.
0:49 - A punt return. I really have no idea what this first tackler is doing here, but Russell makes him miss and then takes it to the house. On this play there are quite a few defenders who take bad angles, and I think that’s attributed to the fact that Russell is faster than he looks. The long stride is misleading and helps him make defenders miss.
1:10 - In my opinion, this should have been the first play on Russell’s highlight tape. This is the same tunnel screen from 2 plays before, but this time the defense is in cover 0 (man to man across the board) and the corner is pressed up. Russell comes off the line hard and creates separation, allowing his 2 receiver to have a chance to make the block. Just like he did before, he makes the catch and immediately gets to the sideline. He’s 1 on 1 with the safety again, and it’s another battle he’s going to win more often than not.
1:28 - If you take a look at the picture above you’ll see that sometimes the best play call is the most simple play. It’s 1st and 10 from the 29 yard line. The ball is on the right hash. Russell is 1 on 1 to the top of the formation with no real safety help. Run verticals, throw the ball up, and let your dude make a play. He does.
1:37 - One of my favorite plays in football, the Jet Sweep. Russell is the 2 receiver at the bottom of the formation and comes in motion. They don’t even block the play side defensive end, and all the H back has to do is chip the linebacker to get Russell 1 on 1 with the safety (which we know he’s going to win). Once again, it looks like defenders are taking bad angles, and he’s gone.
1:54 - Russel is the 2 receiver at the bottom of the formation. Simple slot fade. Quarterback makes a good throw here putting the ball on Russell’s back shoulder. Another catch, another touchdown.
2:07 - Tunnel screen again. I think you know what happens once he makes the catch. Also, highly recommend re-watching this play and seeing Russell’s H back absolutely smoke the safety...
2:20 - Throw it up, see what happens. My dude is better than your dude.
2:38 - If a college coach is still watching at this point then they’re probably very interested in the kid. Here, Russell is lined up as an edge defender on a 4th and long play. He comes off the edge, finds his way to the quarterback to help make a big stop for his team.
The next few plays you see more of the same - Russell lined up on the edge in what appear to be big time situations in the game, and he just continues to make plays. One thing I love is how amped Russell is every time he gets up after making a play. Coaches look for these types of things in players. They want guys who just love to play ball. Russell looks like he is that guy.
3:24 - Back on offense. Another vertical route. This time the safety is over the top, but he plays it poorly. The ball is underthrown, and Russell goes up to get it over 2 defenders once again.
4:52 - Skipping ahead a bit here to one of my favorite plays on the highlight (pictured above). Here Russell is the 1 receiver at the top of the formation, and they call an inside run. So many receivers take plays like this off, especially if there isn’t an RPO tagged. But Russell is a gamer and he wants to make his presence known, so what does he do? Absolutely manhandles the corner and gets himself a pancake on the stat sheet.
In conclusion, Cordale Russell is a fantastic looking prospect. He’s got the size to be an absolute monster at this level, and he plays the game with a physical presence that many receivers do not possess. After watching his highlight tape, I get some real Quentin Johnston vibes from the kid, and I won’t be surprised if he finds himself some playing time as a true freshman. I know the TCU faithful are hoping I’m right.