Pitt RB Shell learning from his mistakes
On the night before his 19th birthday, Rushel Shell stood inside Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, trying to make sense of recent events and prepare himself for his first collegiate game.
“In my head, I really couldn't think,” he said, “because it was so loud.”
Truth be told, the past month has been a bit muddled for the celebrated freshman from Hopewell.
During Pitt's training camp, he struggled to keep up with the size and speed of the other athletes, the likes of which he never had met on a football field. Then he hurt his back and missed important practice time.
He wasn't gone long, returning to open eyes on the Pitt coaching staff with his willingness to run hard, break tackles and, finally, use his speed to elude defenders. But it was only practice.
Soon thereafter, another hurdle — this one self-imposed — blocked his path when he was suspended for the Sept. 1 opener after breaking a team rule.
“I'm young. I make mistakes,” he said. “You learn from them every day. I won't let it happen again.”
So there he was on the Pitt sideline last Thursday, sorting everything in his head, when he heard a voice shout: “Rushel, Rushel.” Five minutes into Pitt's Big East opener, coaches were calling for Shell to enter the game.
“I was real surprised at that moment,” he said.
Coach Paul Chryst had waited long enough to see what Shell could do, and he made him the first running back off the bench after senior Ray Graham handled the initial two series.
Shell carried the football on his first snap, gaining 12 yards by outrunning a defender to the corner.
“My first run was really like a relief to me,” he said. “I was like, ‘I can do this. This is something I can do. I can excel at this level.' I just have to keep working as hard as I've been, and the older kids just have to keep motivating me every day to get better.”
Shell carried four times for 25 yards in that series, but quarterback Tino Sunseri was sacked twice and Pitt was forced to punt. In the final 51 minutes of the game, Shell had only four more carries, finishing with eight for 31 yards.
Chryst was pleased, but he pointed out Shell's pass protection needs work. No wonder: Shell ran for a state-record 9,078 yards in high school on a team that seldom threw.
“I didn't know what a protection was coming in here,” Shell said. “It was rough at first, but I'm really getting a grasp of it now.”
Pitt offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph is sympathetic and patient, for the moment.
“Blitz pickup is a little new to all of them,” he said. “I think it showed up in the spring that we really have to improve there, and (Shell) wasn't here this spring, so he is further behind the eight ball than the kids who were here. It's something you get better at when the action is going full speed.”
Rudolph said Shell has experienced ups and downs, but he acknowledged that he worked hard before and after his suspension.
“He showed a little bit and got an opportunity, and he needs to continue to show it,” Rudolph said.
Added Shell: “Every day I am going out there working as hard as I can, trying to earn (the coaches') trust but mostly my teammates' trust, so they know I won't hurt them in any type of way.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at email@example.com.
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 falls flat in finale loss to Miami
- Gilbert, son of ex-Pitt football standout, commits to Panthers
- Pitt notebook: Boyd undecided about leaving early for NFL
- Pitt’s Young taking a pass, improving his all-around game
- Artis leads Pitt to lopsided victory over Cornell
- Second-quarter explosion leads Pitt past Louisville
- Miami (Fla.) gets prepared to take on ‘physical’ Pitt team
- Emotional send-off awaits Pitt seniors
- Bowl destination is at stake for Pitt football in regular-season finale