In one of the worse kept secrets in recent Pitt recruiting history, Hopewell star running back Rushel (pronounced Russell) Shell verbally committed to the Panthers this morning. The 5'11" 210 pound star originally was headed to Ohio State but eliminated the Buckeyes after Jim Tressel was fired. His final choices were Pitt and Alabama. Other offers included Penn State, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Oregon.
Shell is extremely strong and has the speed to go to the distance any time he touches the ball. He is not a quick scatback type, but instead uses his toughness to run between the tackles, or sometimes his great vision to pick out holes on a sweep before turning on the jets and sprinting down the sidelines with his distinctive head back style. He also has excellent hands and is a threat as a receiver. At the very least, Shell is expected to get time at running back next year, if Ray Graham decides to stay at Pitt. If Graham decides to go to the NFL, then Shell becomes the favorite to start as a true freshman.
What does it mean for Pitt? Neither Graham nor Dion Lewis were rated anywhere near Shell as prospects, and both were star running backs for the Panthers. So you don't have to be a top five back nationally to be an excellent college running back. And of course the naysayers will also point out that Andrew Johnson and Brandon Williams, two past local running back recruiters who failed to meet expectations. But neither Johnson nor Williams were as special as Shell. That doesn't mean he will definitely be a great college player because there have been even better prospects over the years that have failed, so nothing is for certain. But, make no mistake about it, Shell can be a special player.
As for his immediate impact, it sends a message to the WPIAL players, and also prospects nationally, that Pitt is a team that has some things going for them. Shell combines with top 10 QB prospect Chad Voytik to serve notice to the rest of the nation that Pitt is loading up. Shell's commitment could also lead to the commitment of his friend, Sto-Rox linebacker Deaysean Rippy, another top national recruit. That in turn could help land top 2013 prospects like Central Valley WR Robert Foster and North Allegheny OL Patrick Kugler. And before you know it, the Panthers are loaded.