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Shell to visit WVU, talking with Kentucky

| Thursday, June 27, 2013, 3:09 p.m.
Pitt running back Rushel Shell takes a handoff during the first day of spring practice Tuesday, March 5, 2013, on the South Side.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt running back Rushel Shell takes a handoff during the first day of spring practice Tuesday, March 5, 2013, on the South Side.

Former Pitt running back Rushel Shell will visit West Virginia as early as next week as he plans to select from a list of three colleges where he will resume his football career.

Shell, a Hopewell graduate who set the state high school rushing record with 9,078 career yards, also will visit Ohio State and Kentucky, said his mother, Toni Zuccaro.

“West Virginia, we're trying to set something up there for next week,” Zuccaro said.

“When he was in high school, he went down there for a football game. We know a little bit about West Virginia, but we want to see more.

“It's very important (to make the right decision) because this is his last chance for a Division I school.”

Shell was unavailable for comment.

Zuccaro said her son has been in contact with first-year WVU assistant Tony Gibson, who recruited Shell when he was an assistant at Pitt.

Shell signed with the Panthers and rushed for 641 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman last season. He made the decision to transfer despite being listed as the Panthers' No. 1 running back in spring practices.

After preparing to transfer to UCLA, Shell recently decided to attend school closer to home, where he has young twin daughters.

However, Pitt coach Paul Chryst didn't welcome back Shell, which is what her son would have preferred, Zuccaro said.

“I was very disappointed because I really like Paul Chryst,” she said. “I think he's a good guy. But for whatever reason, he decided not to take Rushel back. We can't say we didn't try. Now we're going to Plan B.”

Plan B includes visiting three schools that recruited Shell when he was in high school and are relatively close to home.

West Virginia, located in Morgantown, is a 90-minute drive. Ohio State, in the capital of Columbus, is 3 12 hours away. Kentucky, located in Lexington, is the longest trip at six hours.

WVU and Ohio State (formerly coached by Jim Tressel) made scholarship offers to Shell when he was starring at Hopewell.

Current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer recruited Shell when he was coach at Florida.

Shell didn't initially consider Kentucky, which is now on his radar as a result of his familiarity with new Wildcats coach Mark Stoops, who recruited Shell when he was an assistant at Florida State.

Also, two of Shell's former teammates at Pitt — Demitrious and Chris Davis, who transferred to Kentucky — told Stoops that Shell was looking for a new school.

“The twins that left Pitt and went to Kentucky threw Rushel's name out there, and the coaches knew exactly who they were talking about,” Zuccaro said. “(Stoops) thought he was going back to Pitt, but when they realized Pitt wasn't taking him back, they've been talking to him ever since.”

If Shell transfers to WVU, Ohio State or Kentucky, he would have to sit out a year and would be eligible beginning in 2014.

If he wants to play this year, Shell could attend a Division II school. Zuccaro said that among local schools, Indiana (Pa.), California (Pa.) and Edinboro have made inquiries.

“The only thing I like about a D-II school is that he would play this year,” Zuccaro said. “ But if you still have D-I schools still looking at you ...”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @jharris_trib.

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