Shell considering transferring from Pitt

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 1:42 p.m.

Rushel Shell, who would be Pitt's marquee running back in its inaugural ACC season, is considering transferring and met Wednesday with coach Paul Chryst, a source close to the team told the Tribune-Review.

Shell, a rising sophomore who was one of Pitt's most-prized recruits in years, had not asked for his transfer papers prior to meeting with Chryst, another source said.

Shell and his mother, Toni Zuccaro, did not return telephone calls to the Tribune-Review. A university spokesman declined to comment.

Shell, who set a Pennsylvania record with 9,078 rushing yards in four seasons at Hopewell, was one of three freshmen not redshirted last season. He was the backup to senior running back Ray Graham, rushing for 641 yards and four touchdowns on 141 carries.

He had his best game in a 35-17 upset of Virginia Tech when he gained 157 yards on 23 carries. He also recorded 96 yards and a touchdown against Big East co-champion Louisville.

Shell entered spring drills atop the running back depth chart — wearing Graham's No. 1 jersey — and participated in the first six practices. He injured his leg Friday and was not at practice Tuesday.

Asked about Shell's absence, Chryst indicated Tuesday it was not related to his injury.

“Couple things here,” Chryst said. “We'll kind of work through it, and then we'll see (about Shell returning Thursday). Not positive on it.”

Chryst had no comment Wednesday.

Pitt Heisman Trophy-winning running back Tony Dorsett, who also played at Hopewell, said he has spoken with Zuccaro, but he had no comment beyond suggesting Shell shouldn't make any “abrupt decisions.”

Arizona State could be a logical landing spot if Shell transfers. Shell committed to Pitt in 2011 when Arizona State's Todd Graham was the Panthers' coach.

If Shell transfers to a Division I school, he must sit out the 2013 season, according to NCAA rules.

To obtain a scholarship at a new university, he needs written permission from Pitt to contact that school. If Pitt refuses to grant permission or blocks him from specific institutions, he must pay tuition at that school or request a grievance hearing.

Also, a waiver process is available that may allow a transfer to receive a scholarship and practice with the team but not play in games. From April 2011 to April 2012, the NCAA approved 91 transfer waivers and denied 71.

The NCAA reported on its Website that 6.4 percent of all student-athletes transferred between Division I schools during the 2010-2011 academic year. Included were 969 football players, 809 from men's and women's basketball and 200 from baseball.

Shell's departure would leave a void in Pitt's running game, which already lost Graham. Junior-to-be Isaac Bennett probably would rise to No. 1 on the depth chart, backed up by redshirt sophomore Malcolm Crockett.

Bennett started two games as a freshman in 2011 and rushed for 237 yards and two touchdowns. He was behind Graham and Shell last season, totaling 141 yards and three touchdowns.

Crockett was redshirted in 2011, but played in 12 games last year, primarily on special teams. He gained 50 yards on 12 carries.

James Conner of Erie McDowell is the only running back in Pitt's incoming freshman class.

Note: Defensive tackle Terrell Jackson of Columbus, Ohio, who was redshirted last year during his freshman season, intends to transfer and has been granted his release by the university.

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