With the seniors given two weeks off after the win over South Florida on December 1, Shell saw his practice time--practice reps at running back--significantly increase. It's given him a taste of what the future brings, as the team will look to him and Isaac Bennett once this bowl game is over.
"I'm pretty excited," Shell said. "It shows what they are expecting for you coming in, knowing that I can share the load or take a lot of the load next year. It's pretty exciting, just trying to progress every day."
Despite the breakout game early in the season, there were a few games where Shell didn't factor in as much, or wasn't making much of an impact with the carries he was getting. He had one carry each in the Syracuse and Notre Dame games. He carried the all only six times in the loss at UConn. Interestingly, when Shell carried the ball 10 or more times, Pitt was 6-1.
Shell said he didn't see it as much of a lack of production, as much as it was Ray Graham being the hot hand.
"That's when Ray started moving, and when he started to get back to himself. I didn't take it any type of way," Shell said. "I feel like you should put whoever is doing the best in the game. That's who was doing the best.
"I feel like this year was a learning year. I learned a lot of things that can help me excel next year. I think Ray left me with a lot of tips and points of the game where I didn't even see, where I feel like I can be a great feature back.
Shell played in 11 games, and in seven of those games, carried the ball at least 10 times. Outside of a breakout performance against Virginia Tech, he did not cross the 100-yard mark in any other games. While he feels he's gotten a taste of playing at the college level, he says after one full season under his belt, he has a better idea of how to get more carries.
"At this level, you gotta take care of your body," Shell said. "In high school, I could get away with not practicing a couple times a week just to get ready. At this level, you miss practice, you don't play. Whenever you get the chance, you gotta get off your feet and ice what's needed."
Shell says a lot of what's helped him this year, in a bit of a learning process or adjustment to the college game, is just having Graham around. He says Graham's role off the field as a mentor has helped him even more than just seeing and learning what Graham was able to do as a player.
"I'd say it probably wouldn't even have to do with football," Shell said, describing his friendship with Graham. "I'd say just whenever things aren't going your way, and it looks like things are about to end, just keep on pushing and eventually you'll come to the light."
Interestingly, as Shell will play into January, he says this freshman season doesn't seem nearly as long as any of his high school seasons, which lasted no later than the end of November.
"I felt like this year was short, it felt like it went by really quick," Shell said. "I feel like my high school years were longer than this. This was actually longer, I guess.
"I'm very excited. I've never been to a bowl game. Ole Miss is a great team. We gotta come there ready to play, or I'm sure they'll give it to us."