Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

Pitt transfer Rushel Shell has pleased position coach JaJuan Seider as both a runner and a blocker during the first week of practice.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Seven days into preseason camp and 24 away from clashing with Alabama, sophomore Rushel Shell is proving to be a valuable addition among West Virginia’s running backs.

After sitting out the 2013 season as a transfer, the former Pitt standout is running tough, blocking reliably and winning points with position coach JaJuan Seider.

“I don’t know who’s going to start (against Alabama), but I know Rushel’s going to play. I can tell you that,” said Seider. “I don’t know when—it could be the first series or the second—but he’s going to play. The only thing that’s going to keep him off the field, knock on wood, is if he gets hurt.”

The 6-foot, 210-pound Shell looked like the Mountaineers’ most physical runner during spring, and Seider said he’s also displaying proper instincts in pass protection, recognizing areas vulnerable against the blitz.

“He’s taking steps and minimizing mistakes—they’re cut down from maybe three to one a day,” Seider said. “And a lot of times that one mistake is because we put in a new play, which could happen with anybody.”

After reporting at 238 pounds, four-star freshman running back Dontae Thomas-Williams is down to 230 and showing some wiggle with his wham.

“Our players on defense got an understanding that he’s not just a downhill runner,” Seider said. “There were a couple times he had people in open spaces and made them guys miss. He’s a complete back.”

While estimating Thomas-Williams would be most productive “in the high 220s,” Seider isn’t necessarily beholden to the scales. He likens the rookie’s build to that of former West Virginia running back Kay-Jay Harris, who played at 240.

“Dontae’s naturally going to be big, but he can carry the weight,” Seider said. “I saw him in high school with that weight and I saw him running the 4×100 leg in track and outrunning everybody.”

After spurning Florida State for West Virginia on national signing day, Thomas-Williams figured first-year playing time could be scarce at either program. With no decision rendered on a redshirt season, he’s falling in line with the older running backs.

“That’s their little brother,” Seider said. “They did a good job taking him in. They’re slapping him across the head every now and then, or he’s slapping them across the head. For a kid who’s highly rated, he fit right in.

“I told him ‘There’s no pressure because you don’t have to come in and be the guy right now.’ He just needs to learn and get comfortable.”

Ben Queen/WVMetroNews

Four-star recruits: West Virginia’s William Crest hands off to fellow freshman Dontae Thomas-Williams during preseason camp.
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  • GorillaPhysics

    We are finally getting back to getting the talent needed to compete in the Big12. With Howard and Crest I would expect to see more read option. Hopefully with the emphasis on versatility we can run more no huddle uptempo and just move rb's to slot and TE to fullback. I think our biggest weakness will be our Line both Offensive and Defensive. I was hoping when Crook was brought in, West Virginia would have more or a power running game but it seems that Holgorsen won't stick with it long enough.

    • Mitch

      @ Gorilla Physics,

      "Won't stick with it long enough"? Are you joking? He hasn't even started yet.
      Some of you need to get out of your diapers and quit whining about everything.

  • Joel

    Although I believe we are gaining better talent, we'll still finish 4-8 or 3-9.
    No QB, OL yet to prove it's improved and a receiving corps that unperformed last year.

    Oh yeah, we're playing Bama and Oky in a four week period.

    • superman

      These guys are so negative because they don't know football they probably are Marshall fans lol second team in state.

    • Daniel

      Don't comment on these boards with your fair-weather predictions. Since you don't have hopes for a big year, then DONT watch any of the games.

      • Jason

        Right! Please do not post messages based on your observations....please only post messages with a biased perpetual optimism.

        • Mitch

          @ Jason,
          You mean as opposed to a biased perpetual negativism? Yea, that's so much better, right?

          • Aaron

            Jason is not negative. He is a Marshall fan and one of the more reasonable ones. He comes here because it gets lonely on the MU stories.

  • Mountaineer Fanatic

    I am extremely excited for this season to begin. Can hardly wait to see the faces of all those people who think we will come in 8th in the Big 12, see the Mountaineers beat Alabama. LETS GOOOOOO MOUNTAINEERS.

    • Nhealey

      Agreed. The only reassurance I need is the O-line. This is a beefy talented RB pool and with some push from that line they will dominate. Without it they will still be decent with Holgerson calling the plays. Can't wait. Let's Gooooo! Mountaineers!

  • Holgie

    Ron and WVDean. You both are ridiculuos with the Pittsburgh scenario.
    Maybe you guys should boo Shell after he scores one of his many TD's during the season or has several 100+ yards rushing games.
    It's a good thing our coaches don't have your attitude.


    Looking forward to seeing a lot of Crest handing off to Thomas-Williams over the next 4 years. Great stable of backs this year with a ton of flexibility in using them (i.e. slot receivers). If the OL can hold up and provides some holes and creases and keep keep Trickett upright, WVU will win their fair share of games.

    Looking forward to the end of August and this season.

  • James L. Burns

    Is there any college team in the nation with a better group of running backs than WVU? I don't think so. Place Crest on the field with five running backs in various positions, and you might have a juggernaut.

    • Matt

      Bama and UGA.

      That's about it.

    • WVUness

      Well there is that guy down in Miami named Duke Johnson behind him is a fresh yearby and behind him is gus edwards. I dont know if ur thinking outside of our state or what but there talent around the nation.

  • Ron - from Morgantown

    I've been waiting for a Shell update. Of course he has talent but I still don't trust the players from Pittsburgh. I know that's irrational , you don't have to post a reply and tell me so . He actually can be the guy who is the secret weapon vs Bama . He is that talented .I guess it's a necessity to have a west pa presence on our team . Doesn't mean I have to like it . You don't have to post all the players over the years ( from w pa ) who have helped us win . I know them all . Of course I also remember a certain field goal kicker who missed a couple important chip shots . Actually I hope all the players on our team have a great season because the bottom line is winning. I just like some players more than others.

    • WVDean82

      I'm with you Ron. Anything that has Pittsburgh associated with it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

      • BH

        You are absolutely correct. Major Harris, Rasheed Marshall and AB Brown certainly never did anything good for the WVU football program.

  • any major dude

    I look for big improvements from this team, and probably get overexcited at this time of year. There no harm done by it, until they lose and we get incensed because they didn't live up to our unrealistic expectations, such as undefeated. Reality check!

  • GoEers

    WVU is set at the running back position for the next few seasons. I'm counting down the days until I leave for Atlanta!!!

    Let's Go Mountaineers!!!

  • Capt. Obvious

    New play...Hey diddle diddle DTW up the middle!

  • wvu_93

    With this much running back talent we can slow the game down and give our defense some time to breathe and stay in and win a few more games.

  • Aaron

    If this offense can rush for 3000 yards and throw for 2500, WVU will win eight games and go to a good bowl game.

  • Holgie

    I've been following the Mounties for quite some time. This has to be the most talented set of running backs we've ever had. I know we've had some great ones, but not as many at one time.
    It's gonna be fun watching these guys run.
    Shell is going to be a beast!
    I look for us to run 65%+ a game.

    • Tom

      A.B Brown, Undra Johnson, and Eugene Napoleon would bear some consideration also.

    • Ole Sasquatch

      The I formation of Braxton and Gresham does come to mind.

      • Guardian

        Took the words right off my keyboard, Ole Sasquatch.

  • In da stickes

    Crest to Thomas-Williams has a nice ring to it. Ball control and air raid flash are the best ways to defeat 'Bama. Plus what Ole Sasquatch says.

  • Ole Sasquatch

    All sounds good. We have to understand on defense we are going up against the best offensive line in the nation.

    • wvwarlock

      So when do we play Stanford

    • TruthTeller

      They are only the best because media are being paid to say that. You are only as good
      as you really are not as good as people say
      you are. I could go pay the media to say I was the best man that ever lived but I may be the worst, does that make me the best just because the media hypes me up to be the best? I hope you don't read in the paper that some one with your name was in a car wreck and you go admit yourself into the hospital for
      car wreck injuries. The SEC are the media darlings. They pay the media millions to boast about how great they are to draw the talent to their schools. Ever watch an SEC game?
      Those announcers say every player is the best player in the country. They sit there and build them up about everything they do. Even how they drink their Gatorade. They get PAID to do that!!!!

      • Tomgone12

        They won 2 straight national championships and one wierd play away from playing for a third. It is well documented that they have the deepest and most talented roster in the country. The media has nothing to do with it

        • Jason

          EXACTLY! Make no mistake, the best athletes and coaches gravitate towards the SEC..not saying other conferences do not get good players...just SEC typically gets the doesn't play games..the players, coaches, facilities, and the program as a whole are the variables that come into play.