Admit it - despite all the rumors of Hopewell running back Rushel Shell being Pitt-bound, it was a huge relief to actually hear him say it was a reality. He then proceeded to go out with the ESPNU cameras rolling and rack up another 100+ yard game later that night.
Shell, as we all know, is one of the top high school rushers not only this year, but in recent memory. Shell's not just a great back, but a record-setting one. But beyond all that, his reputation for wanting to win is the thing Pitt fans should be genuinely excited about.
Pitt was a huge favorite, but without a certain move, he may not have been a Panther.Shell could have been headed to Ohio State without the school's recent violations issues:
The talented tailback says he picked Pitt over Alabama (despite never actually taking an official visit to Tuscaloosa) and that Ohio State would have been his favorite had Jim Tressel not resigned amidst NCAA allegations.
Ironic that another western Pennsylvania recruit, Terrelle Pryor, had at least a little to do with that.
I think the deal was probably sealed once that happened, but Shell is excited to see what he can do in Todd Graham's offense. And if he had any doubts about a non pro-style offense, Ray Graham's play in that very offense this year probably eased any concerns.
Shell also realizes Pitt is churning out running backs like few other schools. Lesean McCoy, Dion Lewis, and now Ray Graham have been three of the best rushers in college football over the past five years and that grabbed his attention:
"The past three running backs, you can't complain about them," said Shell about Pitt's recent string of NFL-caliber rushers. "So why not try to be the fourth one? Why not come in and try to take over where Graham left off.
"Ray Graham is the leading rusher in the nation right now, so I think it will fit me well."
I don't think we can quite call Pitt Running Back U, but the Panthers are gaining a reputation for not only running the ball well, but also getting guys to the pros. There were Tony Dorsett, Craig Heyward, Curtis Martin, and Kevan Barlow in the last 30 years in the NFL, but with Shady, Lewis, and Stephens-Howling now in the league (and Graham almost assuredly on the way), Pitt has a recent reputation of getting guys to the pros - and that definitely counts for something.
So did Shell just make his decision? Not according to him - and he wanted to make it public fairly early so that Pitt can bring other highly-touted recruits in:
"Coach Graham told me…at the beginning of the summer…to commit early so we could maybe bring some of those guys in," said Shell, who claims he had privately settled on Pitt prior to the start of the ongoing WPIAL football season. "I thought that was a smart idea."
With several months still left in the recruiting season, it will be interesting to see if others follow suit. But with or without them, with Shell, Chad Voytik, and Adam Bisnowaty all committed, Pitt's class could approach the top 25.