Temple QB Anthony Russo: Emerging NFL Caliber Talent

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Not many people have heard the name Anthony Russo yet. Unless that person is a Marvel nerd and thinks that we are talking about the director of the Avengers movies. No. If you want to read about the Avengers, you are certainly on the wrong website.

I’m here to tell you about Temple quarterback Anthony Russo, one of my top three quarterback prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft. Although just entering his junior year, I have seen a lot of potential from Russo in my tape studies that allow me to place him on my radar.

You are probably wondering who the hell he is! Thats alright. I’d be more than happy to oblige and inform you. Anthony Russo took over as starting quarterback in week three last season as a red-shirt sophomore against Maryland and never looked back, leading Temple to a 7-3 record under his wings. He became the third Temple quarterback ever to throw for 400 yards in a single game.

I found him in a Thursday night game on November 1st at UCF. It was an offensive throw down, and Russo had one hell of a game throwing dart after dart. He threw for 444 yards and 4 touchdowns that night in their 52-40 loss. I placed him on my 2020 watch list.

Anthony Russo’s background

Russo is one of four children. He comes from Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, PA. 247 Composite gave him an .8584 grade, the 25th PRO QB prospect and 15th best overall prospect from Pennsylvania.

Russo attended Nike Elite 11 camps, even making the Finals in 2015. To put into perspective, some of the other quarterbacks who competed with Russo in the final Elite 11 were Michigan’s Shea Patterson, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins (15th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft), Washington’s Jacob Eason, Florida’s Felipe Franks and Tennessee’s Jarrett Gaurantano.

Russo also participated in The Opening All-Star camp in 2015. He performed with the Lunar Beast team, along side Patterson, Ed Oliver (6th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft), Mecole Hardman (2019 2nd round pick), Trayvon Mullen (2019 2nd round pick), and DK Metcalf (2019 2nd round pick).

Despite attending these prestigious camps, Russo was not heavily recruited. He verbally committed to Rutgers early in the process before receiving some late interest from Temple and LSU. Head coach Les Miles actually flew to Pennsylvania with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to ask Russo to officially visit LSU. Russo’s interest was his home and his family, and respectfully declined the offer. That very day, Russo committed to Temple.

The skillset of Anthony Russo

Temple quarterback Anthony Russo scrambles for positive yardage in the Independence Bowl against Duke on December 27th, 2018.

Lets be very clear – Russo’s game has some needs that he will need to work in the 2019 season. We will all be watching for that. However, there are so many things that Russo already does right. That’s where I want to start.

Lets start with the most basic things that we look for in a quarterback prospect. The first box that we need to check off is arm talent.

Arm Talent

Russo has natural arm talent. Not only does he have strength, but he puts such beautiful touch on his passes that he makes the ball easier for his receivers to catch. He knows when to unload a throw and zip it, and he knows when to soften his throw. Here’s a couple of clips to show you what I mean.

 

He has the velocity to drive the football when he needs it to get there quick. This is important for what we call window throws, when a “window” opens for a split second and the quarterback needs to fit the ball through before it closes.

 

Russo’s touch is excellent too. This is important for the deep passes that we call “bucket throws.” He can rainbow the ball into the breadbasket of his receiver with great consistency and ease.

 

Mobility

While Russo isn’t considered a dual-threat quarterback, he can hurt you with his legs when given the opportunity. He has ample quickness and athleticism that allow him to move inside and outside of the pocket.

 

The next thing that I feel the need to point out is his ability to step up on the pocket and still make a throw. Russo’s pocket awareness is very solid, allowing him to move to space and buy time. He doesn’t do stupid things with the football either when he steps up, he stays smart and keeps things in perspective.

 

Release

His release is quick, allowing Russo to get the football out quickly. His footwork is consistent as well, and certainly not lazy. However, the only issue that I have is that Russo’s release point is a little low, allowing passes to be batted down at the line of scrimmage.

 

His stance is a little wide as well, which lowers his release point too and counters the effect of his 6’4″ 230 pound frame. However, it doesn’t seem to effect his placement or accuracy so I personally am not too concerned about that from him.

Adjustments and Pre Snap

Geoff Collins’ offense didn’t allow his quarterbacks much freedom from the line of scrimmage. I never once saw Russo make an pre-snap adjustment.

What I did see was a solid post snap reader. Russo sees the field very well, and seems to understand defensive coverage concepts very well. Very rarely does he throw a football somewhere he shouldn’t be throwing it. Check out this throw against Navy:

 

This play is very special. Russo fits this football into a rapidly closing window as the safety is bearing down on the slant to cut off his receiver, Isaiah Wright, who has inside leverage. It should have been caught, but it showcases Russo’s ability to see where defenders are on the field and make good, decisive throws.

Where Russo stands with talent evaluators now

I love the prospect. His upside is tremendous, he has natural arm talent that not every quarterback is born with and he has the mobility that he needs to succeed at the next level. From the interviews that I have seen and read from Russo, I believe  he is smart and can learn how to adjust the offense at the line of scrimmage. Currently, I have a mid-first round grade on Russo, and he is 3rd on my quarterback list behind Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia’s Jake Fromm.

I reached out to ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky, who called Temple’s game against Tulsa, for an opinion on Russo. He gave me the following brief assessment:

I also reached out to a couple of NFL Scouts to gather their opinions. They both told me that they knew about him and we’re going to be watching him this season to see how well he progresses with a new system.

It will be an intriguing year for certain for Russo. Temple lost Coach Collins to Georgia Tech, and hired Rod Carey from Northern Illinois. The new offense should be more run based, which presents a serious challenge for Russo’s draft stock.

Anthony Russo has spend almost his entire career obscure from the National spotlight. Now, with a big season ahead of him, Russo has a chance to distance himself from the rest of the quarterback class and make himself known as an elite draft prospect.

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