Pitt RB Shell tries to master the little things
The way Pitt freshman running back Rushel Shell looks at life, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing fast.
No one ran faster — or, at least, with more elusiveness — than Shell during the past four WPIAL seasons at Hopewell. He rushed for a Pennsylvania-record 9,078 yards, averaging 8.2 per carry, set a WPIAL standard with 110 touchdowns and a national mark with 39 consecutive 100-yard games.
Those numbers are impressive, but they won't be worth much when it's time for Shell to hit the right hole before it closes — faster than it ever did in high school.
Then, he'll need to rely on something else he is hoping to develop this summer at Pitt's training camp: Knowledge of the collegiate game.
It's something Shell can't wait to master, but he understands it will take time.
“I'm trying my best to get it all done so fast,” he said. “Everybody here is a great athlete.”
Right now, Shell is running with the backups while Ray Graham and Isaac Bennett get most of the work.
“Those guys have a great knowledge of the game, and I'm trying to get my knowledge up to their level,” Shell said. “I'm trying to get better at the small things that take you from being good to being great.”
During non-contact drills, Shell has caught the eye of running backs coach Desmond Robinson, a former Pitt linebacker who played on the 1976 national championship team with another Hopewell grad, Tony Dorsett. Robinson is understandably reluctant to make the inevitable comparison.
“I don't know if it's the same kind of player,” Robinson said. “I just know they are from the same (school) right now.”
After practice Tuesday, Robinson was asked to forget Shell's past and judge the freshman back just on what he has shown in the first two days.
“I would be very impressed,” Robinson said, “because he understood the offense just in the short period of time we've given it to him, better than I expected.
“I would have been impressed no matter what kid it was. The other thing is he has the great work ethic and also he has the skills.”
Sounds like the entire package, but Robinson will wait before nominating Shell for All-American.
“He needs to just learn the full system, and we have to see how it looks like in pads,” he said. “We all look real good in shorts, the whole team we look better in shorts than we do in pads sometimes.”
Those days of reckoning are coming, with the team donning shells today and full pads Friday before scrimmaging Saturday.
Then, coaches will have a better idea of Shell's development after his mostly dominant efforts as a four-year starter at Hopewell.
In high school, Shell was usually faster than most players on the other side of the ball. Productivity came easier than he will find it in the Big East and, especially, next year in the ACC.
“Everything is a lot quicker,” he said. “You can't think now. You have to just do it.”
Pitt's coaching staff, which can spend more time with Shell than the staff at Hopewell, demands precision from its running backs and smart, quick decisions after taking the handoff.
“There are a lot more terms you have to understand and reads and scans,” Shell said. “A lot different than in high school. In high school, you just somewhat go this way or go that way.”
Coach Paul Chryst hopes to ease Shell into his first year by not shoveling too much pressure on his shoulders. But senior Ray Graham is recovering from knee surgery, and Pitt will rely on its depth at the position that includes Shell, last year's starter Bennett and sophomores Malcolm Crockett and Corey Davis.
Shell enters Pitt with a strong resumé, but he is yet to celebrate his 19th birthday.
“I'm not going to say it's 100 percent natural,” he said. “There are little things I have to iron out and figure out.
“I'm pretty sure I'll be all right.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7997.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt offensive line continues to make positive strides
- Pitt, IUP to experiment with 30-second shot clock
- Young Pitt secondary has no fear; will be tested against Duke
- Clairton grad Gombar recalls Duke-Pitt games from mid-70s
- Pitt, Chryst pondering next move as stellar Duke defense awaits
- Academic scandal saddens UNC coach Williams
- Pitt hoops picked 6th in ACC preseason poll
- Script is it: Classic Pitt helmet design to return
- Pitt notebook: RB Ibrahim makes most of opportunity
- Pitt notebook: Panthers not giving up on ACC Coastal Division
- Ex-Pitt coach Majors still making his rounds in college football circles