Coming in and earning playing time as a true freshman, Tyreese Russell's role was very limited. Used mostly in run-blocking schemes early on, Garrett Hoskins would be the tight end to get out and be a playmaker with the ball. But after the 2012 season, Russell has already been playing for some time and was ready to pick up where Hoskins left off.
And that he did.
Going into his junior season, he had 18 catches to his name, but finished with 44 then 39 receptions the next two seasons. He's actually been the the team's leading receiver for the past two seasons with 1,117 receiving yards, averaging 13.5 yards per catch. As a junior, he earned Second Team All-MAC honors and has followed that up with Third Team accolades. Heading into 2014, he was our the 28th best player in the MAC by our preseason countdown.
In both seasons as the full-time starter, Russell has been the best target on Eastern Michigan's roster. His ability to run block and fight for his routes aren't always from the 3-point stance, lining up right alongside an offensive tackle. He's athletic and well-sized enough (6-foot-3, roughly 240 pounds) to line up as an H-back/slot receiver as well.
What does Russell do well? Well, he's a good ball catcher. It's 2015. Having wide receiver-like traits in a prospected tight end is much more valuable now than ever. He didn't have the numbers to back this case up in his college years, but there's a reason why college stats may sometimes be meaningless when it comes to recruiting players from college to professional levels (much like high school to college).
And then there's his speed. Good hands and size, yes, but he was never known to be much of a burner (which is why he was probably brought in as a tight end in the first place). NFLDraftScout.com says that Russell's [low] 40-time is 4.67 seconds, but it's not like a lot of tight ends did much better than that in last year's NFL Combine. His lower-your-shoulder-and-run-through-the-defender style of play after he catches a pass has worked for him, so I doubt there's going to be any changing of that.
The tight end class for this year's Draft class is very thin. Only 12 players were ranked in Mocking the Draft's ranking of tight end prospects, where Russell's name is not mentioned. CBS has Russell as the 29th best tight end prospect in the nation, 542 overall. NFLDraftScout has Russell even lower than that, rated 31 amongst tight ends, 577 overall.
There aren't many highlight tapes out there, but there's this one of the game he had against Penn State in 2013.