Originally thought to be sidelined for up to six months, Seth Russell is significantly ahead of schedule for a return to the playing field.
In a post on his Instagram account Monday afternoon, the Baylor quarterback announced that he has been “given the go to getting back on the field and back to work.” While Art Briles and his coaching staff are likely to take it easy with Russell for the foreseeable future, the junior should be available when the Bears open up spring practice in a couple of weeks.
In an Oct.24 win over Iowa State, Russell sustained what was determined to be a fractured bone in his neck. It was announced two days later that Russell would miss the remainder of the 2015 season; two days after that, he underwent surgery to repair the damage.
At the time of the injury, Russell was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the country. In the first seven games of the season, Russell threw for 2,104 yards and 29 touchdowns, totals that were both deep inside the Top 10 in the nation prior to the neck issue.
Barring a setback, Russell will be on the field as the starter when BU opens the 2016 season against Northwestern State. Rising sophomore Jarrett Stidham will be expected to again serve as the backup.
UPDATED 5:17 p.m. ET: Just a little clarification as to the extent of Russell’s clearance.
WHO: No. 10 North Carolina (10-2) vs. No. 17 Baylor (9-3)
WHAT: The 26th Russell Athletic Bowl
WHERE: Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla.
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
THE SKINNY: It’s the nation’s top scoring and total offense against a team that was a correctly called onside kick away from potentially taking No. 1 Clemson to overtime in the ACC title game – a group that, by the way, doesn’t struggle to move the ball in its own right. What’s not to love?
A lot, actually.
Already down starting quarterback Seth Russell for the season, Baylor announced earlier this month back-up quarterback Jarrett Stidham, starting running back Shock Linwood and Biletnikoff Award winner Corey Coleman will all miss the Russell Athletic Bowl with a varying set of ailments. So now Baylor will attempt to keep up with the Heels with third string quarterback Chris Johnson (he’s completed less than 40 percent of his passes for less than six yards per attempt in limited action) without its 1,300-yard rusher or its 20-touchdown receiver. Still, the Bears still have All-American tackle Spencer Drango, All-American defensive tackle Andrew Billings, future first-round pick Shawn Oakman and a pretty deep collection of skill players taking the field tonight in Orlando. Against most teams that would probably be enough — but not North Carolina.
Regardless of who does or does not take the field tonight, this is an important game for both programs. Neither team has accomplished anything of substance in non-conference play in a long time; UNC’s non-ACC wins this season consist of North Carolina A&T, Delaware and Illinois, while Baylor hasn’t beaten a Power 5 team outside the Big 12 since a Holiday Bowl whipping of UCLA way back in 2012.
Neither team saw itself in Orlando as recently as Championship Saturday, but whoever wins will celebrate like they just won a New Year’s Six game.
THE PREDICTION: North Carolina 41, Baylor 30
Baylor’s Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver Corey Coleman will miss the Russell Athletic Bowl against North Carolina. Coleman will be undergoing a surgical procedure to address a sports hernia, Baylor head coach Art Briles announced Saturday.Briles also confirmed running back Shock Linwood (knee) and quarterback Jarrett Stidham (ankle) will be out for the bowl game.
Briles said Coleman was injured before Baylor’s game against Oklahoma on November 14. That would help explain why Coleman’s production took a nosedive in the final month of the season, although Baylor’s quarterback situation exploded as well. After putting together 216 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Kansas State, Coleman failed to catch more than five passes in a game or accumulate more than 77 yards in a game. He has not scored a touchdown since that Nov. 5 Kansas State game.
The loss of Stidham for the bowl game was not a surprise, as Briles previously commented that Chris Johnson will be expected to start the bowl game anyway and he was not optimistic about Stidham being read due to an ankle injury. Briles did say the 2015 season-opening starter, Seth Russell, should be good to go for spring football at Baylor, which is very encouraging news.
Baylor’s quarterback position has been hit hard this season, but at least it will get to end the year with an actual quarterback playing the position in the bowl game. Baylor head coach Art Briles has confirmed Chris Johnson will be expected to start for the Bears in the Russell Athletic Bowl against North Carolina. According to The Orlando Sentinel, Briles said quarterback Jarrett Stidham will not be ready to play in the game as he works his way back from an ankle injury.
“It doesn’t look like he’s going to be ready,” Briles said of Stidham, who himself replaced Seth Russell as a starter once he went down with a season-ending neck injury midway through the season.
“Play for everybody out there on the field except for yourself and be a great leader and a great competitor,” Briles said of Johnson. “He’s done an admirable job. He’s made some mistakes, which are understandable, but we sure feel like we can go out and win with him.”
Johnson has appeared in eight games, in which he has completed 39.5 percent of his pass attempts for 220 yards and three touchdowns with a pair of interceptions thrown. The extra time to prepare Johnson to run the Baylor offense will come in handy, rather than throwing him right into the fire in games against Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas with a Big 12 championship on the line.
The 2015 season may be done for Baylor quarterback Seth Russell, but the good news is he should be able to make a full recovery and work his way back on the field in 2016.
“Lot of really good news on that end,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said Monday. Russell recently had season-ending neck surgery last week. “Everything went as well as could be expected. … He’s moving around, he’s comfortable, and he’s Seth. He’s a fighter, and we’re anxious for him to get back on campus and get back around us.”
Russell injured his cervical vertebra in a recent game against Iowa State. As previously reported, it is expected Russell will undergo a rehab process over the next six months. That not only sidelines Russell from the rest of the 2015 season, but also whatever postseason destination Baylor is invited to as well as the bulk of, if not all of, spring football practices.
With Russell sidelined for the rest of the season, Baylor’s Big 12 and playoff hopes now rest in the hands of freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Stidham takes the helm of the offense coming off a bye week this Thursday night when Baylor visits Kansas State.