MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia couldn’t land Rushel Shell out of high school, but the Mountaineers made good on their second chance.
The former Pitt running back announced Friday he plans to transfer to WVU, where he’ll become eligible in 2014 and have three years of eligibility remaining. A four-star prospect according to Rivals, Shell also considered Kentucky and Ohio State.
West Virginia made a strong push to recruit Shell during his legendary prep career at Aliquippa, Pa., but a source close to the situation said “he never gave WVU serious interest” at the time. Several new factors worked in West Virginia’s favor once Shell left Pitt after a promising freshman year during which he ran for 641 yards and four touchdowns.
WVU safeties coach Tony Gibson and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson coached at Pitt in 2011 and were involved with recruiting Shell during his senior year of high school. “Those relationships definitely helped,” the source said, “because that’s something none of the other schools interested in him could offer.”
Location also played a role, considering Shell has twin toddler-age daughters—Amiyah and Arion—who live in Hopewell, Pa. Proximity to the girls became key when Shell announced in April he was transferring to UCLA but ultimately decided it was too far. (Pitt coach Paul Chryst subsequently declined Shell’s request to return to the Panthers.)
WVU’s other selling point was the depth chart. Four of the team’s top five running backs will have exhausted their eligibility within the next two years—true freshman Wendell Smallwood is the only current running back who projects to be on the roster come 2015.
Shell visited Morgantown on Monday and engaged in the usual recruiting tour of the facilities, save for one exception. He didn’t tour the dorms because, as the source noted, “he’s probably not going to live there anyway.”
“Things went really well down at WVU,” Shell told ESPN. “I enjoyed every moment of it. We toured the campus and facilities and I got a chance to hang out with other recruits and players on the team. They made my visit terrific and made me feel like family.”
Shell remains Pennsylvania’s all-time leading high school rusher with 9,078 career yards.