After six practices of spring football, and given an excused absence away from the football program, Pitt running back Rushel Shell has decided to file his paperwork for a transfer, a source close to the situation has informed Panther Digest.
Late Tuesday morning, another source close to the situation confirmed that Pitt had granted Shell's request for a transfer. The lone exception, being that Shell cannot transfer to another ACC School.
Just after noon on Tuesday, Pitt head coach Paul Chryst issued the following statement:
"Rushel and I met on Tuesday morning and he informed me of his final decision to transfer. I wish him only the best moving forward. Out of respect for Rushel, his family and his privacy, this will be my final comment on the matter."
Though no destination has been set, it is believed that West Virginia and Arizona State are two schools in the mix. Former Pitt assistant Tony Gibson is now in a similar position at West Virginia. He was Shell's chief recruiter, when he initially committed to the Panthers of October 2011. Todd Graham, Pitt's head coach at the time, is of course the head coach at Arizona State.
Shell started the 2013 spring session as the first-team running back. He worked through the first six spring practices as the first-team running back.
On March 22, in hindsight Shell's final practice as a Panther, he carried the ball nine times in the first scrimmage of spring. Isaac Bennett took the most carries, 23, in that scrimmage. It didn't look to be too serious an injury, but Shell was seen with ice wrapped around his waist.
When the team resumed practicing on the following Tuesday, March 26, Shell was excused from that practice. It was not considered an injury. Chryst cited that Shell was 'working through a couple things.'/p>
Last Thursday, it was announced that Shell was given excused absence from practice. It was apparent then, that Shell was considering a transfer. Chryst issued the following statement:
"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 played 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.
Shell's move now leaves junior Isaac Bennett, sophomore Malcolm Crockett and freshman Demitrious Davis as the team's three scholarship running backs. Desmond Brown, a walk-on, split the work load at running back in Friday's scrimmage. Crockett saw limited action in Friday's scrimmage, fighting through a calf injury that he aggravated in Thursday's practice. Davis also had the opportunity to work in Friday's scrimmage, but was bothered by a sore ankle. Also in the mix is walk-on Desmond Brown, who finished with the most carries in Friday's scrimmage.
Interestingly, 2013 signee James Conner--initially recruited as a defensive end--was introduced as a running back on signing day, and will add another body to the position when he gets here in August.