Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Former Pitt running back Rushel Shell arrived at West Virginia last August overweight. But assistant JaJuan Seider says Shell “firmed up” while sitting out the season.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As exiled Pitt running back Rushel Shell mulled West Virginia among his transfer options last summer, and West Virginia mulled whether to accept him, newly hired Mountaineers running backs coach JaJaun Seider sought a second and third opinion.

He chatted with fellow assistant Tony Gibson, who recruited the four-star prospect out of Aliquippa, Pa., when Shell was smashing the Pennsylvania high school career rushing record. Gibson vouched for the kid, who had been suspended for a game during his lone season at Pitt, subsequently left the Panthers during the offseason and was denied a return by head coach Paul Chryst.

For pure football feedback, Seider also talked with Virginia Tech linebackers coach Cornell Brown, whose Hokies had been flattened by the freshman Shell for 157 yards on 23 carries in 2012.

“Cornell said ‘Man, that son of a gun was the toughest kid we played all year,'” said Seider, who came to view Shell as a low-risk gamble. “I respect those guys’ opinions, and bringing in Rushel didn’t cost us nothing because he walked on first semester.”

As last fall played out and Seider witnessed Shell going from pudgy to punishing while working as a scout-teamer, the coach more fully realized what brand of player WVU added.

“The biggest thing I saw in him was body transition,” Seider said. “He firmed up. He looked like a dude—he looked like that guy who you talked about coming out of high school.”

The dude flashed plenty of moves during the bye week preceding WVU’s season finale, when the coaching staff ceded practice reps to younger players.

“He can do some things that are so natural,” Seider said. “For a big guy, the way he can make jump-cuts, and his feet being as light as they are, he’s special.

“But I also know he’s going to go forward. He’s not going be a guy trying to make somebody miss all the time. He’s going to be a guy who’s going to finish a run.”

Shell’s end-of-run toughness could rub off on talented senior Dreamius Smith, who ran for 545 yards and five touchdowns last season yet danced too much for the coaches’ liking.

“Dreamius still has what we coaches call a lot of ‘basketball’ in him, where Rushel is all football,” Seider said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to be 225 pounds and run right through somebody.”

With Shell and Smith leading a deep contingent of returnees—see sophomore Wendell Smallwood and juniors Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie—West Virginia’s backfield looks well-stocked for next season. Four-star recruit Donte Thomas-Williams of Durham, N.C., also is scheduled to arrive in summer. And according to Seider, the transfer Shell showed an all-in attitude by playing pitch man to prospects in WVU’s recent signing class.

“He was one of our best recruiters during the offseason, the way he handled kids when they came on official visits,” Seider said. “You’d have thought he never went to Pitt.

“He’s only an hour and a half away from home, but he’s away from those distractions. I think he finally felt like he was at peace with himself.”

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  • Brian

    I would say it is an absolute necessity, and possibly the salvation of the offense.

  • 1olewvufan

    The QB situation and the lack of defensive play is what many are talking about concerns many WVU fans and is the talk of the media. Personally, I am not worried about the QB situation, with 8 QBs competing for the starting job, I am sure Holgorsen and Dawson will know who the starter and back-ups are by mid-July. As far as the defense goes, the hiring of Tom Bradley minimizes my the concerns I have here.

    I am more concerned about the offensive line. Last season Childress suffered a season ending chest injury, and Trickett suffered a shoulder injury that hampered his play. My concern has nothing to do with Coach Crook, but rather the talent he has to work with. Can Crook put together 10 to 15 offensive linemen who can play as a unit, who can work with each other consistently to open holes for the running game, and protect the QB on passing plays? If they can't, then 8 QBs may not be enough.

    One thing is certain, WVU has lots of talent and depth at TE, RB, and Receiver, and the DL should be solid.

  • jay zoom

    this guy will be a first round draft pick for the USFL - oh sorry they don't exsist . so that tells you the talent WVU has acquired. look he scored 4 touch downs. the only problem is he didn't have the ball.

  • Big Bill

    Don't let nothing stop you

  • GooblyGook

    The Big 12 conference with only 10 members is now the new Big East. Becoming irrelevant. The ACC, SEC, Pac-12, and Big 10 are Super Conferences. Great football, great basketball and 12+ members, soon to be 16 each. The next round of conference re-alignment will swallow up the Big 12, just like the Big East. WVU will have no place to go except for the AAC, which was once the Big East. The AAC, Conf-USA, the MAC and the Mountain West will be on the outside looking in.

  • westfair518

    This is a great story of come back. This means WV has come up with a jewel, go Rushel, make Mom proud!

  • kenobill

    Be the Man Rushel. You now belong to the Mountaineer Family.

  • scott

    Lets goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Mountaineers!!!!

  • Mike

    Shell was a five star recruit

  • Bruce Phillips

    A power running attack is the best way to open up the passing game. GO EERS I'm ready for spring ball

  • Big Daddy

    This sounds GREAT all these running backs and playing in the Big 12 you need alot of back's BUT IT ALL STARTS UP FRONT !!!!!!
    Ya got to have an OFF LINE that can block, and the last few years we have not had one so let's work on that line !! and then we will be hard to handle !!

    • ole sasquatch

      Good point. Let's hope the offensive line coach can do much better than he did last year.

  • Banyai

    Saw Rushel in Pitt vs Va Tech 2 season's ago....he hammered and punished the vaunted tech defense...literally ran over cornerbacks a few times. Loved it. Hope we have improvement in the o-line.

  • bob

    If you don't have a quarterback, what good is a great tailback?

  • Long live the south

    FREE GARRISON AND BUIE these kids are being held hostage !!!!! Rb coach does not like them BUIE All but transferred and they made him come took Garrison a year and a half to get his red shirt. the coaching staff(Rbcoach) does not even acknowledge these young men.... The college game is a business

    • DWM

      I wish someone would have punished my kids by paying their way through college the way Buie and Garrison are being abused.

      Hopefully they are smart enough to realize they have a great opportunity to get a free education and do something great with their lives.

      Neither has the size and or speed for the the next level.

    • Matt M

      That may be the dumbest comment I have read on this board. If they are good, they will play. Plain and simple.

    • Steve

      what is wrong with you?

  • Mark

    Welcome home, Rushel. Now let's get the QB we deserve to go along with the rest of the package.

    • Josh

      The QB we deserve?

      • Jay

        I agree. "Deserve" is the most dangerous word in the English language. Everyone believes they deserve something these days. If the coaches recruit and develop a good quarterback, they will have earned good play at that position. Same for the quarterback. If he earns the job, great. There's no deserve about it.