Former Pitt running back Rushel Shell finds heavy competition for playing time at West Virginia

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

He's back.

Okay, so not at Pitt, but at Cardiac Hill. At the risk of annoying people (which I surely will), I wanted to at least check in on Rushel Shell, the former Panthers running back. We all know the story, here - the highly-decorated Shell checked into, and then out of, Pitt with a suspension and some troubled times in the middle.

As the story goes, Shell left for greener pastures (possibly at Arizona State #PittHatesFreedom), had a 'change of heart', but found a shut door back at Pitt. That forced his hand and a move to rival West Virginia instantly making him the top heel of the territory.

Funny how these things work out.

At the end of the day, Shell had a pretty good thing at Pitt. The ability to play for his hometown, family nearby, and being tabbed as the future star of the team. A two or three-year run at the top of the depth chart seemed a given until the transfer. Shell still has, I'm convinced, a world of talent. But if he's going to show it this season, it's going to be a lot harder getting onto the field, it seems.

While he was virtually assured of being the man at Pitt after Ray Graham graduated, Shell is now fighting for playing time. The West Virginia back is in a battle with four other running backs (redshirt juniors Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie, senior Dreamius Smith, and sophomore Wendell Smallwood). Talk about crowded backfields. Gone is senior starter Charles Sims, but Smith and Smallwood were the No. 2 and No. 3 backs. Also, don't sleep on Garrison, who had a big freshman year and is impressing this spring. And, oh yeah, Buie rushed for 851 yards in 2012 before taking last year off, so he's a real threat for time, too.

Even looking beyond this year, three of those four guys will be back. There's a good chance that Shell not only finds playing time a bit scarce this year, but potentially next year as well.

There's competition everywhere - Shell knows that. At West Virginia, though, there appears to be a glut of running backs that could be in his way. As a Mountaineer, Shell will have four players all fighting for time besides him. Unlike at other schools, all four are a viable threat to play, too.

As I've said before, Shell has talent. He has a rare combination of size and agility and as we saw at Pitt, had the ability to run players over ... as a true freshman. At his best, you probably would even call him the best back that West Virginia has. But if he's going to get on the field this year, he's got a lot of competition.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author, the manager/editor of Cardiac Hill, @AnsonWhaley

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