Head coach Holly Warlick announced , on Aug. 21, that Russell will redshirt in 2014-15 to give her time to recover from a history of foot problems.
"Mercedes has a history of orthopedic problems with her feet that our sports medicine staff is working to correct," Warlick said. "Redshirting this season will allow her the opportunity to return to full health and still have three full years of eligibility with our program. We look forward to seeing Mercedes back in action next season."
The 6-foo-6 center, from from Springfield, Oregon, had undergone offseason surgery on her right foot and that she was "out kind of indefinitely" according to Warlick last month. Maria M. Cornelius, of Inside Tennessee, is now reporting that Russell is scheduled to have another surgery on her other foot in the near future. The surgery is expected to correct issues that she's been having with her toes and a full recovery is expected.
Russell averaged 6.3 points and 5.0 rebounds to go along with a team-high 40 blocks as a freshman while helping Tennessee reach the Sweet 16. The Lady Vols finished last season with a 29-6 record.
Russell’s loss hurts the Lady Vols frontcourt depth, but they are talented enough up front to overcome the setback with 6-foot-2 senior forward Cierra Burdick , 6-foot-2 junior forward Bashara Graves and 6-foot-3 center Isabelle Harrison returning. 6-foot-2 junior forward Jasmine Jones and 6-foot-3 junior center Nia Moore also returns. In addition, freshmen Kortney Dunbar and Jaime Nair can play in the frontcourt if need be. The 6-foot-2 Nair, from Portland, Ore., was ranked as the No. 6 recruit in the Nation by ESPN HoopGurlz while Dunbar, from Edwardsville, Ill., was ranked No. 78 in the class of 2014.
Tennessee should also be set in the backcourt with 5-foot-7 Ariel Massengale running the show at point and return of 5-foot-9 sophomore Andraya Carter and 5-foot-11 sophomore Jordan Reynolds. Redshirt freshman Jannah Tucker, ranked No. 8 recruit in the class of 2013, and 5-foot-9 freshman Alexa Middleton, ranked No. 28 recruit in the class of 2014, will also be counted upon.