It looks like Pittsburgh running back Rushel Shell might not suit up for the Panthers in 2013. Multiple outlets, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, are reporting that the talented sophomore is considering a transfer from Pitt.
On Thursday, Panthers coach Paul Chryst released a statement on Shell's situation. According to Chryst, Shell is taking some time away from football to "work through this situation."
"Like many college freshmen, Rushel is working through some challenges right now," Chryst said in a release. "As it is for all members of our team, my most important concern is his personal well-being. Rushel and his family have our full support.
"We are giving him time away from football to work through this situation but he very much remains a part of our family on a daily basis. We want to be sensitive and respectful of Rushel, and I would ask others to do the same."
Rumors were flying for most of the day, including one that Shell will end up reuniting with former Pitt coach Todd Graham at Arizona State. According to the Post-Gazette's Sam Werner, it is likely the decision has not been made either way.
I've heard several different reasons for the decision, so it's probably a combination of factors. The factors that drew Shell to Pitt in the first place, specifically the proximity to his family and his young daughters, are still in play as reasons he could pull a last-minute switch and stick around.
If Shell decides to leave, it would eliminate one of the few certainties in the Panthers' offense. The Aliquippa, Pa., native rushed for 641 yards and four touchdowns on 141 carries as a true freshman in 2012. With Ray Graham graduated, the former five-star prospect was set to break out as the Panthers made their ACC debut this fall.
Pitt's offensive staff already faces the challenge of reshuffling the offensive line and finding a replacement for three-year starter Tino Sunseri at quarterback. Shell's absence leaves the Panthers without a proven playmaker in the offensive backfield. It is likely that Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett would compete for the starting job if Shell leaves. Bennett has an experience advantage on Crockett with 87 career carries for 378 yards. Crockett, a redshirt sophomore, appeared in just two games and totaled 12 carries in 2012.
Pitt concludes spring practice with its Spring Game at Bethel Park High on April 12. For more check out the Panthers' Spring Practice Primer.