In the end, Rushel Shell decided Pitt ultimately wasn't for him and has requested a transfer from the university in a move that leaves Panthers fans wondering what exactly went wrong. And I'm wondering the same thing.
Perhaps it is really just as simple as he didn't like the coaching staff. Or his other teammates. It isn't fair to force a 19 year old to stay on a team that he didn't really like being around. As much as I want him to stay, best of luck to him in wherever he goes.
But at the same time, he is doing the one thing he didn't want to do when he initially committed to the Panthers - be away from his twin daughters. That may have been one of the many reasons he chose Pitt over Alabama, his other finalist, but it clearly was a big enough reason for Shell to choose the Panthers over the Crimson Tide. And he isn't considering the Tide now (not that Alabama really needs it).
He's also leaving a program that pretty much puts him in the limelight all the time. As the starting running back for a pro-style offense, he would have gotten plenty of playing time and multiple chances to face quality opponents over the next few seasons. One would assume playing time is not a factor in this move.
After all this, there are two questions that I would like to know the answers to.
So why now? If he didn't like the coaching staff now, I can't imagine that there's ever been a solid link or relationship between the two sides. Maybe at first, before the start of fall camp. But as Shell went through fall camp and the 2012 season, little by little, it surely built up enough to the point that he was unhappy with the coaching staff. Whether it was, as some message board posters believe, because Shell has a large ego and he wasn't being treated as the star by the coaching staff is unimportant to me. Perhaps that is the case, but I didn't speak to him and I don't know him on a personal level. Far be it from me to assume that that's where the problem lies. If that is the case, then it really all makes sense. I can't ever imagine Paul Chryst stroking one player's ego at the expense of the rest of the team. Not a match made in heaven and Shell could have very well known it from the start, but he decided to honor his commitment to the Panthers anyways.
That still doesn't answer the question though. Why now? Why not immediately after the bowl game? Or before then? Why not pull a Khem Birch and transfer mid-season? As I stated above, if it's because of the disconnect with the coaching staff or the team, I can't see where all of a sudden, after one incident, he decided he didn't want to play for Pitt anymore. This clearly was a move he has considered for some time. But to announce in April that you're transferring is much different than saying so in January. In January, there are more options. Schools who, rather than using a scholarship on a recruit that will ultimately redshirt their freshman year anyways, can grab a highly touted player who has to sit out a year anyways. Really doesn't make a difference regardless of who is picked.
In April, the options are far fewer. Recruiting for the previous class ended weeks ago and while the next year's recruiting class is just beginning to pick up steam, it's still an awkward time to go out and look at schools. And in Shell's case, he's still going to have to wait a year wherever he goes. Which leads to the next question ...
A move to the Pac-12? To the West Coast? This is where many of us are confused. It's been well known that Shell stayed in the Steel City because of his family. If he decided to transfer at least somewhere nearby, perhaps to a B1G school or a Big East school, I could understand it. But the Pac-12? I'm having difficulty wrapping my head around why so far away. Unless his twin girls and their mom are moving out West with him, in which case I'd like to direct the NCAA to whichever school lands him.
You would assume that Pitt wouldn't allow Shell to transfer to Arizona State and I would think that they ultimately do that. It's easy to see their reasoning why - after the way Graham left, I can't see Pitt doing him any favors by allowing a prized recruit to join him in Tempe.
Ultimately, it's his choice where he wants to go. And other than Arizona State, WVU, and Penn State, he can go wherever he wants. But he has many questions to answer, and unfortunately for him, he may come out looking like the bad guy here, fairly or unfairly so. I can't see a scenario where he doesn't come out with at least some damage to his reputation - especially if he goes out West, where he'll be thousands of miles away from his family, perhaps his biggest reason for choosing the Panthers.
My gut tells me that Shell has been trying to transfer for some time, but stayed at Pitt because of his family. But the people close to him saw his unhappiness and eventually gave him the OK to go out and be somewhere else. Best of luck to him wherever he ends up, but I think the Pitt community at least should get some answers why.
Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics.