Pittsburgh confirmed Tuesday that sophomore running back Rushel Shell is seeking a transfer from the Panthers' program, but the school has blocked Shell from rejoining former Pitt coach Todd Graham at Arizona State, according to multiple reports.
ESPN.com and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette both reported Friday that Shell has been blocked from transferring to Arizona or Arizona State. Shell has the right to appeal the decision, but Joe Schad is reporting that the sophomore running back is also considering Cal and UCLA.
Shell was recruited by Todd Graham during the coach's brief stop at Pittsburgh, and when Graham bolted for Arizona State it was Shell who worked to keep the Panthers' 2012 recruiting class together. For many Pitt fans, it was Shell -- an Aliquippa, Pa. native and one of the state's finest running back prospects in recent history -- who represented the bright light at the end of a tunnel filled with coaching changes and BBVA Compass Bowls.
It is possible that Pitt's decision to block Shell from Arizona State is tied to suggestions of his arrival before the transfer process began. Sun Devils defensive back Damarious Randall took to Twitter last month to congratulate Shell on the move to Arizona State. That tweet sent Pitt fans into a frenzy, particularly because it came before Panthers' coach Paul Chryst explained Shell's absence from spring practice.
Pittsburgh's athletic department has plenty of reasons to distrust Todd Graham, but we're not entirely sure what could have inspired the block from Arizona. It is normal practice to block a transfer within the same conference or to a school on the future schedule, but Arizona and Arizona State do not fall into either category.
Shell, who had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Florida State in high school, rushed for 641 yards and four touchdowns on just 141 carries as a freshman in 2012. His departure has thrust Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett into a competition for the starting job.