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.”
THOMAS-WILLIAMS ‘NATURALLY’ BIG
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.”