Ron Musselman | Pitt star recruit Shell searches for new home

June 30, 2013 

— Former Pitt running back Rushel Shell will remain just that — an ex-Panther.

Coach Paul Chryst last week denied the former Western Pennsylvania high school star’s request to rejoin the Pitt football program, just days after Shell opted not to transfer to UCLA.

Now, Shell is searching for a new home once again, and reportedly has narrowed his choices to West Virginia, Ohio State and Kentucky.

Shell set the Pennsylvania state high school rushing record with 9,078 yards for Hopewell in 2011.

A five-star tailback, he picked Pitt over Alabama. He was suspended for the Panthers’ opener last year against Youngstown State for violating team rules, but the freshman rebounded with 157 yards on 28 carries against Virginia Tech in the third game of the season.

Shell finished the year with 641 yards and four touchdowns while backing up senior Ray Graham.

Shell, 6-foot and 215 pounds, was the No. 1 running back on Pitt’s depth chart earlier this year, but he decided to leave the program two weeks into spring drills after a series of arguments with members of the coaching staff.

Shell indicated he was going to transfer to UCLA, where he would have had three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out this season, per NCAA rules.

But he never departed for Los Angeles. A father of 16-month-old twin daughters, he wanted to remain close to them.

Shell approached Chryst about rejoining the Pitt program, but it’s obvious that Chryst has already moved on.

While Shell weighs his future, Pitt is prepared to enter fall camp in August with just four scholarship running backs on the roster.

Junior Isaac Bennett remains the favorite to capture the starting job. Redshirt sophomore Malcolm Crockett and incoming freshman James Conner and former walk-on Desmond Brown also will vie for playing time.

Steelers want to host draft

The NFL Draft has been held in New York City since 1965 and at Radio City Music Hall since 2006.

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II wouldn’t mind having the draft return to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh has played host to the NFL Draft twice before — Dec. 19, 1947, at Fort Pitt Hotel and Nov. 15, 1948, at Hotel Schenley.

”Sure, I'd like to see the draft move around (to other cities), and I would love to see it come to Pittsburgh some time,” Rooney told the team’s website. “It's a great event and attracts tremendous fan interest. It would be a fun event for Pittsburgh to host, and I think our city could do a great job with it.”

The NFL has moved next year’s draft in New York from April 24-26 to May 8-10.

“I’m happy we didn’t move (the draft) back any further than we did,” Rooney said. “There was some chance it was going to get moved back one more week in May, but they only moved it two weeks.

“To me, I think we can live with that. One or two weeks is not going to make that much of a difference, but once you get beyond that it does start to affect the football side of things and really how much time you have with the rookies, in terms of getting them in and starting to work with them.

That has to be considered, and I think it will be. Next year it will be a little bit of a trial run, and we’ll see how it goes.”

Overall, according to the Steelers’ website, the NFL Draft has been held at 31 sites in seven cities: New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Washington, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.

The NHL Draft was held last year at the Penguins’ home, the Consol Energy Center.

Steelers, Eagles set for camp

The Steelers, under veteran coach Mike Tomlin, will open their 48th training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe July 26 and hold their first practice for fans the following day.

Their first practice in pads will take place July 29. They will conduct two night practices, one at Latrobe Stadium on Aug. 2 and another at St. Vincent on Aug. 14.

The final practice open to the public will be held Aug. 17. The team will break camp the following day.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles have ended their 17-year training camp run at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

Rookie coach Chip Kelly has opted instead to complete this season's three-week camp at its headquarters at the NovaCare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field in South Philadelphia.

Rookies will report on July 22 and veterans on July 25.

Pitt going outside WPIAL

The Pitt football program has 12 verbal commitments for 2014, but just three of the prospects are from the WPIAL.

They include Bethel Park High School offensive lineman Mike Grimm, Shady Side Academy running back Dennis Briggs and Fox Chapel linebacker Quintin Wirginis.

Grimm is rated a four-star recruit out of five, while Briggs and Wirginis are 2-stars.

The Panthers had just one commit June 13, but collected 11 over the next eight days. They have recruits from seven states in their Class of 2014.

Ron Musselman is a freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter@ronmusselman8. Due to other professional commitments, this will be his final column for the Centre Daily Times.

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