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Pitt's Shell eager to begin learning

| Wednesday, June 20, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
Pitt running back Ray Graham said his surgically repaired right knee felt better after he absorbed a hit to it during practice on Monday, Aug. 20, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

After developing into one of the best running backs in Pennsylvania scholastic history the past four years, Rushel Shell becomes a college player Sunday.

He reports to Pitt's campus for the start of his summer academic session and informal workouts with his new teammates.

Shell rushed for 9,078 yards at Hopewell, but no one is sure how that translates to college football.

Shell said Pitt coach Paul Chryst told him to be ready.

“He said that I could make a lot of impact as a freshman,” Shell said last week at the Big 33 game.

Shell's addition to the Pitt roster will add depth to the running back position. Senior Ray Graham is recovering from a serious knee injury, and it's uncertain when he will be at full strength. Sophomore Isaac Bennett is returning after gaining 237 yards in six games as a freshman.

“In my head, I always want to be the starter,” Shell said. “But there are times where you have to sit back and learn. I'm ready to learn, because Ray Graham is a great running back.

“I wouldn't mind learning a couple of his tricks to make sure I succeed at the next level.”

Another quarterback

Pitt could be on the brink of adding the first quarterback to its 2013 recruiting class.

Tra'Von Chapman, who completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,212 yards and 26 touchdowns at Kent (Ohio) Roosevelt High School last season, will choose from among Pitt, Cincinnati and Wisconsin on July 1.

“It's safe to say Pitt is the frontrunner,” said Chapman, who has been on campus each of the past two weekends.

“They make it feel like a home environment. I feel like I can trust those guys the most.”

Chapman, whose father Thad Jamison is the wide receivers coach at Kent State, would be Pitt's first four-star recruit, according to Rivals.com, which ranks him 11th nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks. He rushed for 735 yards and eight touchdowns last season in Ohio's second-largest classification.

Chapman, who worked with Pitt quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger at the school's prospect camp, runs the spread offense for Roosevelt coach John Nemec, who doesn't think adjusting to Chryst's pro-style will be a problem.

“I think he'll be fine,” said Nemec, who played for coach Pete Antimarino at Gateway. “He's an athlete.”

“I got some good coaching (from Bollinger), and I took it and ran with it.” said Chapman, who is 6-foot-1, 200 pounds.

Chapman has 11 offers, including Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Akron, Bowling Green, Kent State and Boston College.

Power back for the future

Pitt's first running back recruit is power runner Corey Clement, who comes from the fertile region of southern New Jersey.

“He is going to lower his shoulder and run you over,” said Mark Maccarone, who coaches Clement at Glassboro (N.J.) High School. “He is not someone who is going to flat-out outrun you, but he is going to hurt you every time you tackle him and you are not going to want to tackle him anymore.”

Maccarone said Clement (5-11, 205) is among the top four backs in Glassboro history, including Gary Brackett, a former linebacker with the Indianapolis Colts; former Penn State player Sean Redman; and Holy Cross' Gordie Lockbaum, who was a ninth-round draft choice of the Steelers in 1988 after finishing third in Heisman Trophy voting in his senior season.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com or 412-320-7997.

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