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Digesting a day of Rushel Shell speculation

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Well, nearly a full day later from Shell-gate and we still don't know exactly what's going on. And, predictably, no one's saying a word. Shell reportedly met with head coach Paul Chryst today, but hasn't made his decision known to the world yet. But we are able to piece some things together from what's come out today.

Why Rushel, Why?

When trying to decide 'why', I take the approach that Sam Werner does at the PG - it's likely a number of things. It's just hard for me to believe that one single, random act could lead to a player deciding to make such a major decision. This isn't choosing to skip a practice, it's potentially packing up and trekking 2,000 miles away to a school out west.

Regarding the relationship with head coach Paul Chryst that, by all indications, seems a bit rocky, only Shell knows just how fractured it might be. The one thing to remember is that Chryst did suspend the back, along with several other players, before Pitt's opener last season against Youngstown State. At the time, I thought Shell took it pretty well, but who knows if the two have had a rocky relationship since then.

Then there's this whole thing about Shell's attitude towards anything from lifting weights to not wanting to practice hard being bandied about. But I'm simply not enough in the know to make that leap. And when it comes to that, I'm not willing to speculate. It's not fair to anyone reading the blog and, more importantly, it's not fair to Shell.

Will he go?

With that out of the way, is this really happening? Will Shell move on? Chris Peak said he's pretty set on leaving, as others have. Sideline reporter Gregg Giannotti also says a source told him it sounds like a done deal. This may not be a finalized yet, but here's the thing - I've not found a single, credible outlet saying the chances are he sticks around. Sure it's a possibility, but as of right now, the odds are against it.

If you're hoping for a last-minute change of heart, there's hope, friends. Some, anyway. Shell is from Pittsburgh and his family and daughters are here. If there's anything that can influence a kid in college, it's family and the comfort of being close to home.The other factor is that Shell is expected to be 'the guy' this year for Pitt. Not just at running back, but on the entire offense. All running backs love carries and Shell is due to get quite a few of them by staying.

Until he officially transfers, there's hope. But ...

If he doesn't stick around, where will he go?

Okay, then - with that said, where is Shell going to end up if he decides he's sick of Jamie Dixon's postseason struggles, 'O' pizza, and dealing with snow in late March? Like you probably have heard by now, the trendy rumor suggests Shell could end up at Arizona State to join former scumbag coach Todd Graham (and FWIW, the folks who broke the story say that they are in the running along with several other western schools like USC, UCLA, and Arizona). Frankly, I don't see it. In case you don't remember, Graham didn't exactly leave on the greatest of terms with Pitt. In fact, he left about as badly as a coach possibly can. Chryst may not personally care about Todd Graham, but rest assured that the administration does. Pitt surely doesn't want to gain the reputation of being difficult when it comes to players transferring and that's one reason an unrestricted release could come, but I can't believe that they would consider losing their most prized recruit in many years to perhaps the most hated figure in recent memory at the school.

Don't forget - Pitt holds the chips here. They can do the right thing and grant Shell a release, but, right or wrong, they're under no obligation to let him go anywhere he pleases. Frankly, I could see Shell being released to a school like West Virginia (another option heavily rumored today) if he really wanted to go there. They're not in Pitt's conference anymore and there's no threat to the Panthers. I don't think the administration would be thrilled with him leaving and having a storybook career at Morgantown, but if Shell made a convincing enough case that he wanted to be close to home ... let's just say I can see that before a release to Arizona State.

Then again, there was this little tweet today from Damarious Randall - an Arizona State player:


Look, I know he's on the team and all, but I'm still not ready to believe that Shell is headed for the land of pitchforks (no cruel jokes here, folks) just yet. Never say never and the tweet certainly adds some credibility to the belief that he wind up there, though. One thing is certain - it would make Graham even more hated in western PA.

The impact

Don't be fooled, boys and girls - losing Shell would be a monumental deal. As I've mentioned above, Shell was set to be the focal point of the offense. Are Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett capable of carrying the load? Maybe. But the real issue here is that Pitt's already thin stable of running backs gets even thinner. If you thought the team would be hard pressed to deal with injuries before, Shell leaving would magnify that problem exponentially.

And I've also been amused by those that point to his modest freshman year and leap to the conclusion that he wasn't that great anyway. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Shell is a star - make no mistake about it. Just because he didn't dominate with senior Ray Graham getting the majority of the carries doesn't mean that he is only a mediocre running back. If Shell ran for the same numbers he did last season, could he be replaced? Of course. But like most players, Shell will only get better and better over the next two to three years. Taking the sour grapes approach and insisting he's not that good is pretty ridiculous.


Look, I get it. We all do. All I'm asking you to do is think before you tweet that profanity-laced message to Rushel. It's fair to be upset - particularly after all that Pitt has been through the past few years. But the fact is that Shell is still a kid. He's likely a bit confused by all of this right now and piling on doesn't do you or him any good.

And guess what? At the end of the day, he's allowed to do what he wants, right? It's his life. He doesn't owe it to you or anyone else to stick around if he's not happy here. I'm not telling you to root for him if he happens to leave. Just have some tact and a shred of common decency - that's all. It's fair to question why he wants out, but it's not fair to question his character, manhood, or any of that other fun stuff. Be civil, people - I implore you.

Good times.

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