Shell Taking Time Away From Football

Paul Chryst offers an update on freshman running back Rushel Shell, and his status with the team.

Pitt head coach Paul Chryst offered a statement as to Rushel Shell's status with the program.

The freshman running back had been practicing with the first-team at running back through the first six spring practices. Tuesday, he was absent. Rumors began to swirl about Shell's status with the program. Thursday morning, Chryst issued a statement--not confirming an injury, and also not confirming any transfer possibilities.

""Like many college freshmen, Rushel is working through some challenges right now," Chryst said in a statement. "As it is for all members of our team, my most important concern is his personal well-being. Rushel and his family have our full support. We are giving him time away from football to work through this situation but he very much remains a part of our family on a daily basis. We want to be sensitive and respectful of Rushel, and I would ask others to do the same."

Shell was Pitt's second-leading rusher behind Ray Graham, rushing for 641 yards and four touchdowns on the season. He had a breakout game, in just his second collegiate game--157 yards against Virginia Tech. His other top performances for the year came against Louisville, where he rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown, and against Ole Miss where he rushed for 76 yards in his first collegiate start.

Shell committed to the Panthers on October 14, 2011, where he was a five-star prospect out of nearby Hopewell High School. He also play in the inaugural Semper-Fi Bowl in Phoenix last January.

Shell's status with the team was up and down, throughout the course of his freshman year. He was suspended for the team's season-opener, a 31-17 loss to Youngstown State, just hours before kickoff for a violation of team rules. Shell also had to battle a nagging back injury, that kept him limited in practices and games throughout the year, and also kept his game reps sporadic.

In wins over Virginia Tech and Gardner-Webb, Shell had 23 carries and 18 carries, but then carried the ball just once at Syracuse. After three games with 18 carries, and a pair of 12-carry games, Shell ran just once in a loss at Notre Dame and six times in a loss at UConn.

""I feel like this year was a learning year," Shell said in an interview back in December. "I learned a lot of things that can help me excel next year. At this level, you gotta take care of your body. 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."

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