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Athlon names Rushel Shell as one of the top running backs on the rise

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Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

Rushel Shell got a good bit of playing time as a freshman last year, sharing carries with Ray Graham. But Graham was the senior and was largely effective, so Shell's role was limited.

But 2013 will be his time. The thought is that Isaac Bennett or Malcolm Crockett will back him up, but Shell will be the feature back. Neither of those two should warrant the number of carries that Shell received last year barring an injury or flat out ineffectiveness. Athlon recently ranked their top five running backs on the rise and Shell rightfully made the list.

How much Pitt runs will depend on his ability to be effective, but if he proves he's a reliable back, the opportunity for a large number of carries will be there. The Panthers' passing game is in a bit of a transition with a new starter and the loss of one of their two top wideouts last year, Mike Shanahan. Paul Chryst could very easily rely even more on the running game this season. And if he does, Shell will have a great chance to get to 1,000 yards.

But again, it's all up to Shell.

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