By LARRY VAUGHT
SheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tried to avoid reading Internet blogs and listening to chatter about what might be wrong with her son, Kentucky sophomore running back Donald Russell. However, Tanya Russell plans to make a trip from Florida to Lexington this week to ask head coach Joker Phillips eye-to-eye what has happened with her son.
He started the season No. 2 on the depth chart, dropped to No. 3 behind freshman Raymond Sanders and eventually started two games after Derrick Locke was injured. However, he dropped back behind Sanders for UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game at Mississippi State and even walk-on Coshik Williams played more than him, including the final two drives when UK had a chance to tie the game.
Russell lost his spot after a fumble against Georgia that led to a Georgia touchdown in a loss to the Bulldogs two weeks ago.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We do not want to cause any conflict between the coaches because we are not that type of family. I don’t know what message, point, position, stance they took Saturday night with my son. (Coach) Joker (Phillips) said his game plan for the game was Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwe can’t put the guys in there that are just careless with the ball.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Donald was not in the game lo fumble the ball, so what’s their excuse now,Ã¢â‚¬Â Tanya Russell said.
She spoke to Phillips, who has gone home to Franklin, Ky., today because of a death in the family, on the phone Sunday morning and plans to meet with him to find out exactly what her sonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s role might be.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We love Kentucky and we want to bleed blue, but I am running out of motivational speeches for my son after every game. The fun of football is being sucked right out of him every weekend, especially when he talks to so many of the other players that are just so unhappy,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have heard from all of Donald’s coaches before. He is one of the easiest players to coach because all you have to do is ask him to do something and he will do it.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“How could a staff allow such a player with good character and talent slip through their fingers (and I’m not saying this just because he is my son). I try to find the good out of everything bad because that is the Godly way but when he is faced with this and not being supported or encouraged or being developed by the coaching staff, this is not an Operation Win for us.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Phillips had said Russell had an Ã¢â‚¬Å“adequate performanceÃ¢â‚¬Â in UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s win over South Carolina. Ã¢â‚¬Å“There were some runs that he missed, but he also made some huge plays especially in the passing game. He didn’t turn the ball over. He caught the ball well. He protected it well.Ã‚Â He played good enough for us to win,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said.
Why did Russell not play more at Mississippi State?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We just thought Raymond was seeing things and late in the game when he went out for aÃ‚Â couple of snaps and we went for Williams who came in and gave us something, picked up blitzes and hit a couple of runs and was seeing things also,Ã¢â‚¬ÂÃ‚Â Phillips said.
Russell did play special teams at Mississippi State. He was also in the backfield and threw a block to give quarterback Mike Hartline extra time on the first-half touchdown pass to Randall Cobb. The next time Sanders needed a break Russell had a 5-yard run before Williams got the call with the game on the line.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am continually trying to motivate him to hang in there and get through these rough times,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I tell him you have to fight back. That is the competitiveness of the game.
I just want to talk face to face. But he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand now what he can do to make them believe in him. I am stumped about what to say to him and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why I want to talk to Joker. We do not want to leave at all as some are speculating.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœI got on him (Donald) Friday and tried to get him to snap out. He is surrounded by negative thoughts. I said, Ã¢â‚¬ËœDo you love football? Get back to that. You are losing it. Get it back.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ I got on him. You have to take time to analyze and ask what I can do better. Were there times you missed plays. I told him he was going through the motions. He admitted he was just going on and playing tentative because he knew if he made a mistake what would happen. If you are afraid of making a mistake, you cannot play your best. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been playing under fear, not motivation. I told him he had to get back to playing like he did last year or against Auburn this year.Ã¢â‚¬Â
She was also disappointed that she didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see any coaches console or encourage her son after his fumble or during the Mississippi State game.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Nobody came when he was there with his head down,Ã¢â‚¬Â Tanya Russell said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Joker has the right not to put him in. This is JokerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s team. This is his team. I support that and understand that. We are proud of him and respect him. But for them to do what they did to Donald at Mississippi State was shocking. He was in the right mind frame to really play, and he never really got a chance
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I want Joker to be a mentor. He has my son. He is in charge of him and he is the one molding him and his teammates to be men and teaching them how to handle adversity. I respect that, but I just have some questions about Donald I want answered because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a good kid, a good player and he truly wants to help this team.Ã¢â‚¬Â