West Virginia notebook: Ex-Hopewell RB star Shell sees 1st action since 2012
ATLANTA — West Virginia wasted no time getting running back Rushel Shell into the action.
After sitting out last season, the Pitt transfer and former Hopewell High School star was listed at No. 3 on the depth chart. But he started in the backfield against No. 2 Alabama at Georgia Dome.
On the game's first play, Shell split out wide to the left as a receiver but was not the target. He said he did not recall doing that before.
“Maybe in high school,” he said.
Then the 5-foot-10, 215-pound redshirt sophomore did what he does best, running hard on three straight carries for 20 yards, helping the Mountaineers attain field-goal position and take a 3-0 lead.
Shell carried six times for 37 yards in the first half before Alabama clamped down. He finished with 41 yards on 10 carries. He also produced a 19-yard reception by evading one tackler and running over another.
“I felt good,” Shell said of returning to the field for the first time since 2012. “To be out there with your team and playing and contributing, it felt great. So I'm glad about that.
“I'm just trying to get better every game.”
Shell looked a bit wobbly coming out of the locker room, leaning on university spokesman Mike Montoro. He said he had the flu.
“I'm just trying to hang in there,” Shell said. “I'm real dehydrated and stuff.”
Illness notwithstanding, Shell said he feels comfortable in West Virginia's quick-paced, pass-oriented offense. Known as a power back, Shell said he believes he has a place in it.
“Definitely,” he said. “I'm not the only power back. I feel power backs can be a great mixture with our speed backs.”
Alabama won its 13th consecutive season opener and 48th straight against an unranked opponent.
En route to a 7-5 record under Dennis Franchione, the Tide lost the 2001 opener to UCLA. Unranked Louisiana-Monroe beat Alabama in 2007, a rebuilding year in coach Nick Saban's first season.
This and that
Shell wasn't the only Western Pennsylvania player making his first start for the Mountaineers. Dravon Henry, a freshman from Aliquippa, started at free safety. ... Junior safety Karl Joseph was credited with a career-best 18 tackles. His previous best was 13 against Iowa State in 2012. ... Blake Sims' 24 completions and 250 yards were school records for the debut of any Alabama quarterback.