Russ Yeast isn’t all that particular about what position he’s asked to play on the football field.
“Just let me have the ball and I’ll just do what I can with it,” he said. “That’s pretty much it.”
During his two games in a Center Grove uniform, Yeast has shown he can do plenty when the ball is in his hands. He’s given the Trojans — who were without injured running backs Titus McCoy and Trevor Hohlt last week — a much-needed big-play threat, and the team will need more of that Friday when it hosts conference rival Carmel at Ray Skillman Field.
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Center Grove coach Eric Moore summed it up rather nicely: “He’s just a player, man.”
Trojan fans saw that right away in the season-opening loss to Warren Central, when Yeast broke free up the left sideline for an 84-yard touchdown run. The 6-foot, 185-pound senior wasn’t able to show his full array of skills that night, however — as Moore noted, the injuries to McCoy and Hohlt forced Yeast to play in some spots where he hadn’t yet practiced.
Yeast came into last week’s game against Whiteland fully prepared, though, and the Warriors never had a chance. Yeast had 143 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries, caught a pass for 36 yards and totaled 115 yards on three punt returns, including runbacks of 47 and 55 yards to set up Center Grove touchdowns in a 43-0 win.
“He took advantage of everything he could take advantage of,” Moore said. “The passing game, going and making a play. Carrying the ball, going and making a play. Punt returns — ‘Hey, you’re going to kick it to me? I’m going to make a play.’ So hats off to him.”
Yeast has been making plays throughout his high school career, the first three years of which were spent in Ohio. He played his sophomore and junior seasons at Fremont Ross High School under his father Craig, who brought his family to Indiana in January when he took over as the offensive coordinator at Franklin College.
This past spring at Center Grove, Russ Yeast ran track for the first time, which gave him a chance to get to know most of his current teammates.
Moore, who doubles as the Trojans’ track coach, said that running in the spring helped Yeast — who helped the school’s 4×100 relay team finish seventh at the state meet — both physically and socially.
The adjustment, by all accounts, has been seamless.
“It helps when you’re really good, so everyone wants to be your friend,” Moore smiled.
Among those trying to be Yeast’s friend now are several Division I football coaches, all of whom are looking to add him to their 2017 recruiting classes. Yeast committed to Kentucky, his father’s alma mater, prior to his junior year but pulled back from that this summer. He’s since narrowed his list to the five schools he’s planning to take official visits to this fall — Alabama, Auburn, Iowa, Louisville and Mississippi.
His Auburn visit will actually be this weekend. After playing against Carmel on Friday night, Yeast will wake up Saturday and head south to catch the Auburn-Clemson game, then come back in time to get to school Monday.
Having had both of his parents go through the recruiting process when they were younger — Craig is still the University of Kentucky’s all-time leading receiver, and his wife Tori was a high school track and basketball standout who played on the hardwood for the Wildcats — has helped Russ take all of the hoopla in stride.
“I think that’s the biggest piece of information throughout this process,” Craig Yeast said, “is just understanding what’s important.”
Moore has noticed those values in Russ this season and has no doubt that whatever decision he makes — and Yeast hopes to have a college selected by season’s end — it’ll be a decision he makes for the right reasons.
“The best thing about him, he’s a great kid,” Moore noted. “And if you were talking about my son, that’s what I’d want you to say — he’s a great person.”
A great person who happens to also be pretty good at football.
Yeast will end up signing with a major Division I program in February, but college football isn’t his top priority just yet.
“It’s my last year of high school,” he said, “and I’m just doing what I need to do to win games.”
Russ Yeast’s father Craig is the new offensive coordinator at Franklin College. Check out Thursday’s Daily Journal for a preview of the Grizzlies’ season.