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Hopewell's Shell headed to Pitt

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Hopewell running back Rushel Shell, one of the nation's top recruits, announced his college decision at a press conference at the high school this morning, and it's one that will make local fans—and a certain new head coach—happy.

The all-time WPIAL rushing leader will stay at home and play his college football for head coach Todd Graham at Pitt, choosing the hometown Panthers over Alabama and dozens of others.

“It’s been a great experience throughout the recruiting process,” Shell told ESPN earlier in the week. “I’ve put a lot of thought into my decision, I’ve made up my mind and I’m pretty happy with it.”

Shell has cited Pitt's reputation for developing NFL running backs as one of his reasons for selecting the Panthers. The last five running backs to start a game at Pitt—Dion Lewis, Henry Hynoski, LeSean McCoy, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Rashard Jennings, who started for the Panthers as a freshman before transferring to Liberty—are all in the NFL. Their current starter, Ray Graham, leads the nation in rushing yards.

MaxPreps ranks Shell as the 11th best prep prospect in the nation and third overall at running back. ESPNU also ranks him No. 3 at running back, while Scout.com has him fourth and Rivals.com fifth at the position. He is considered to have rare field vision, the strength and power to run between the tackles, and the speed—he runs a sub 4.5 forty—to get to the corner.

Joe Butler of Metro Index Recruiting says that Shell’s physical assets are what make him special.

“He’s got a wide, thick body and thick thighs. He can absorb punishment, has great speed and can see the entire field. It’s hard for running backs to play at the college and pro levels without that body. He has that body,” Butler said.

In a game against Mt. Lebanon earlier this fall—with former Hopewell legend, Pitt grad and NFL Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett, and former record holder Mike Vernillo of Fort Cherry High School both on hand—Shell broke Vernillo’s WPIAL record of 7,646 yards with a third quarter touchdown run. He later scored the winning touchdown to cap a 205-yard, three-TD performance.

Shell has 1,059 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns so far this season and is closing in on 8,000 yards for his career. He missed last week's game against New Castle because of a concussion but is expected to play tonight when Hopewell takes on Central Valley.

Photo by William McBrideShell also had offers from Oregon, Florida, Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, Penn State, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, West Virginia, UCLA and dozens of others.

He is the 18th member of Pitt's 2012 recruiting class, the only running back, and the eighth from the WPIAL or Pittsburgh City League. Before adding Shell, Pitt's class was ranked No. 40 by Rivals and No. 26 by Scout.

Shell said he will sign a binding letter of intent with Pitt in February.

Click here to see the highlights from Hopewell's win over Montour, in which Shell ran for 233 yards and scored the winning touchdown with just over one minute remaining.
 

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