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March 28, 2013Rushel Shell is considering a transfer from the Pitt football program, multiple sources have told Panther-Lair.com.
Shell, a sophomore from Hopewell, entered spring camp as the Panthers' top running back and worked exclusively on the first team through the first six practices of spring. But he was not at practice on Tuesday due to an "excused absence," per a Pitt spokesperson, and head coach Paul Chryst was uncertain about Shell's return during a post-practice press briefing.
"We're trying to work through it and we'll see," Chryst said, although he did not specify what issues prevented Shell from joining the team for practice. Chryst did say that Shell's absence was not related to an injury suffered during a scrimmage last Friday.
Shell met with Chryst on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of a transfer. As of Thursday morning, Shell had not made a decision on his future and had not formally filed for his release.
Shell's potential destination is not known, although some sources have indicated he is favoring schools in the PAC-12.
As a true freshman in 2012, Shell rushed for 641 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games. He was suspended for the season opener against Youngstown State, but spent the rest of the season as the top reserve behind Ray Graham. Shell took the bulk of the carries when Graham sat out the BBVA Compass Bowl, a 38-17 loss to Ole Miss.
Shell came to Pitt as the start of Chryst's first recruiting class in February 2012, and he brought an impressive pedigree to the Panthers. A four-year starter at Hopewell, Shell finished his career as the all-time leading rusher in the history of Pennsylvania high school football with 9,078 yards. He also set the state record with 110 career touchdowns, a record that was broken by 2013 Pitt recruit Tyler Boyd last year.
If Shell leaves, the Panthers will have three scholarship running backs on the roster this spring: junior Isaac Bennett, redshirt sophomore Malcolm Crockett, and redshirt freshman Demitrious Davis.
Bennett is the most experienced, having been thrust into the lineup as a true freshman in 2011 due to injuries. He has appeared in 17 games - including two starts - over the last three seasons. In that time, Bennett rushed for 378 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. He has also caught 22 passes for 166 yards and one touchdown. Bennett was expected to be Shell's backup this season, and he is now the likely starter.
Crockett played in 12 games last season and recorded 12 carries for 50 yards. Seven of those carries came in Pitt's 55-10 win over FCS team Gardner-Webb; the other five carries were in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Davis redshirted in 2012 and moved from receiver to running back this spring.
Pitt will add one running as a true freshman this year in Erie McDowell jumbo-athlete James Conner.