Still considering transferring, Shell given time away from Pitt team
Officially speaking, Rushel Shell remains a member of the Pitt football team while people inside and outside the program try to convince him not to transfer.
Coach Paul Chryst remains publicly sympathetic, excusing Shell from spring practice indefinitely and issuing a statement in which he vowed to be “sensitive and respectful” while calling for others to do the same for the sophomore tailback.
A university spokesman said Thursday that Shell hadn't requested transfer papers.
“As it is for all members of our team, my most important concern is his personal well-being,” Chryst said. “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.”
Later, he added: “All these guys, you want to do what's best for each individual, and you want to do what's best for your team, and you can do them both at the same time.”
Yet spring drills passed the halfway mark Thursday, and Chyrst has a more immediate concern: Finding a running game and the proper players to man it.
Which pulls junior Isaac Bennett and redshirt sophomore Malcolm Crockett out of the background.
They shared repetitions with the first team Thursday, although Bennett probably has the edge at the moment. They are trying to take advantage of the opportunity afforded them by Shell, who hasn't practiced since getting hurt midway through Friday's practice and contemplating a transfer to another school.
“A man goes down,” Crockett said, “the next person has to step up.”
Actually, they seemed to enjoy their time Thursday in the glare of the media spotlight, teasing each other over who's faster and more powerful. When Crockett said he was more athletic, Bennett was standing at his elbow.
“Watch his nose (grow),” Bennett said laughing and flashing his trademark smile. “Let him believe what he wants to believe. He's fast. Not faster than me.”
Chryst wasn't interested in discussing the differences in the two backs.
“They both run hard and they like the game,” he said.
Bennett, who at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds is listed as 1 inch taller and 5 pounds heavier than Crockett, came to Pitt in 2011 in former coach Todd Graham's only recruiting class. Half of that 22-man class is gone, but Bennett and Crockett stayed — though they were only bit players last year.
Bennett, who started two games as a freshman when Ray Graham and Zach Brown were injured, kept a positive outlook and strong focus last year even while he was moved to the third team.
Now with the Shell saga playing out in a seemingly endless stream in social and mainstream media, Bennett said he has no trouble ignoring it.
“It's not (difficult) at all,” he said. “Things happen, and you have to move on and stay focused on things that matter.”