MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — From the crowded and richly capable running back race taking shape at West Virginia, it appears Rushel Shell is emerging with a stellar preseason camp.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen noted the Pitt transfer made a big impression during weekend practices:

“He had two or three runs where you say ‘Yeah!’ and you see why the hype was there. He’s running people over. He looks good.”

Along with the pile-pushing power Shell showed as a freshman at his previous school, there’s some elusiveness to the 6-foot, 210-pound sophomore.

“He runs angry, but he can surprise you in the open field,” Holgorsen said.

Though Shell accounted for only nine of the 55 catches by Pitt running backs in 2012, he apparently has the dexterity to factor into West Virginia’s passing game.

“He may have the best ball skills (of the group,)” Holgorsen said. “I found that out recently. He’s got tremendous hands.”

Holgorsen tuned up the media’s attention Monday by announcing “We’ve got to get Dreamius going.” Then he explained that the senior running back—presumably a lead candidate to start against Alabama—has received limited practice reps while recovering from minor knee surgery in June.

Smith was expected to garner a larger dose of work, and a chance to reassert himself, during Monday evening’s practice.

“We kind of did this on purpose, because we wanted to feed the other guys early and let him get his legs underneath him,” Holgorsen said. “This afternoon’s a big day for him.”

West Virginia’s first-team receivers look solidified—Kevin White and Mario Alford on the outside, Daikiel Shorts and Jordan Thompson in the slots.

That leaves the competition to the backups, where Holgorsen said KJ Myers, Devonte Mathis, Vernon Davis and Shelton Gibson are vying to join the rotation.

“We need two of those four to step up,” he said.

Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said Myers can be used as a swing guy, possessing the capacity to mentally process responsibilities at all four spots. Davis recently helped himself in a scrimmage with a team-high 17 targets that resulted in 15 catches.

For the second consecutive media session, freshman William Crest took reps as the third-team quarterback behind Clint Trickett and Paul Millard.

Earlier Monday, Holgorsen contended the four-star recruit remains “in the mix” at punt returner.

“He’s got great ball skills,” the coach said, who reiterated that Crest’s special-teams availability “is going to depend on what his role is offensively, which we haven’t figure out yet.”

Cornerback Ricky Rumph walked the perimeter of the field in a red jersey, while linebackers Nick Kwiatkoski and Brandon Golson wore green non-contact tops.

Projected nickelback starter KJ Dillon (ankle) returned to practice, as did reserve offensive guard Stone Underwood (shoulder).

The media was not allowed to watch any of the full-padded 11-on-11 period. While the 30-minute viewing window included mostly individual drills, reporters did get to watch the defensive front seven take on the offensive line in a blitz pick-up exercise.

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  • WVU 2104

    Like some of the comments here..getting psyched for this Bama game. Football is a game of emotion. Emotion is on our side. Question is how we handle it. Cousin Nick will have a few wrinkles to keep up with the up tempo he hates, but I believe Bama's D is gonna be ripe for picking. Lost a lot of starters, a freshman still has a learning curve(they may have 3 or more start). If you run a 4.2 in Bama, it ain't any faster than a 4.2 in WV. We will be in this game in 4th QTR, closing games is my biggest concern this year.

    • nashville cat

      talent level, let's get real, and throw emotions out of the equation...bama will beat us by as many pts as they want to,,
      we are out manned at every position, they are bigger , stronger, faster.
      Talent thin is my biggest concern this yr.
      Let's be realistic, we're 1-3 to start the season, and in order to go 6-6 , by las vegas odds, we'll have to win three by upsets. Is it in the cards, i'm seeing more like 4-8 again, and that will keep dana his job.

      • WVU 2014

        Throw emotions out of it, then you might as well throw the talent out to. Have you heard of upsets! Upsets happen because of emotion.
        Just keeping it real....

  • nashville cat

    my opinion and fifty cents, buys a half of cup of coffee, so here goes.

    If not needed at qb, i would RS crest.. concentrate on being the qb , learning holgie's signals, and what to do when , at the qb position.
    For sure, dana will be back next yr. , i think luck has all but promised that, especially if we're only 4-8 again.
    If we lose every game , well that might change the picture/
    At running back , we're loaded, but how quickly that can change... It all depends on the off. line, and i think we're replacing 3 linemen.. that's alot..... let's just don't set our sights too high, a rough schedule,and questionable talent in the depth dept..Just because lots have played last yr, doesn't mean they're any good..

  • any major dude

    Allen, thanks for the input. You're right-it's still early and I'm not trying to read DH's mind. It will become clear soon enough, I suppose.

    Although unconventional to say the least, I don't have a problem with Crest returning punts, if that's what happens. There's a lot of raw talent and athleticism there, for sure. Intriguing!

  • TheFireman

    I think that Crest SHOULD be used this year. If not, you have no one with any experience going into next year. I'm %100 certain that he'll be used.

  • Big Rick

    The depth we have at RB is music to Big Rick's EARS! Can't wait to see what they do this year.
    -Big Rick


    Now I would loved to have watch the defensive front seven take on the offensive line in a blitz pick-up exercise... What are we going to be like in the trenches? Are we strong? Are we athletic? Are we mean? Are we smart? Are we skilled?

    What is it we do better Run block of pass block?

    We have too many kids with bumps and bruises that are missing development time with one another... ( I may have answered one of my questions? Are we mean & hungry?....not yet.

    It's a long season for these kids, maybe next week we see more kids on the field ready to play...

    Let's Goooooooo!!! Mountaineeeers!!!

  • Aaron

    If you compare the pictures of Trickett and Crest winding up to throw, you can see what causes the hitch in Crest' passes. His hand is too low and it appears he throws a football with the same motion one would throw a baseball. He needs to get the ball up by his ear and come over the top to improve accuracy.

    • Dave

      Well that might be true if the pictures were taken at the exact same time in their throwing process. Trickett is at the peak read to go forward where Crest has not completed his backward hand motion.

      • Aaron

        See below

    • pcm

      Aaron is an expert QB coach, right? Just by comparing pictures?

      Was WC standing in the pocket? Scrambling?

      The CT shot looked like warmup (see chinstrap), the WC shot looks in his eyes as if he were on the move but getting planted to fire a shot, arm backswing in motion.

      • Aaron

        Doesn't matter. The throwing motion should be the same. That's why they call it muscle memory. The ball needs to be up near the head. Don't take my word for it, do some research.

        Here a decent start.

    • Nostradamus

      Is Dana setting Bama up for some Crest zone read? Auburn killed them w the ZR last year......we can't totally ignore that, right?

      • Mitch

        @ Nostradamus,

        Auburn killed them with an experienced senior QB, not a true freshman.

        • Aaron

          Not quite. Last year Nick Marshall was a JC transfer who played on year of QB at Gardner Webb Community college after spending his freshman year at UGA as a cornerback. He was named the starter in August.

  • Hop'sHip

    Is there a legitimate reason for coaches to be so restrictive of press coverage of practices? I can kind of understand it when they get to game preparation, but why now? Is it because they are control freaks?

  • pat

    As long as there is a possibility of Crest playing defenses have to plan for it. Good call in my opinion.

  • Ron from Morgantown

    DH is a disciple of HM but I don't think he is as crazy as him. Translation - it would be a huge gamble to use Crest as a punt returner . But that doesn't mean that DH isn't scheming to use Crest in the Bama game ( hint - Shell will also surprise in this game ....) . Maybe DH promised Crest that he would see the field in the Alabama game if he signed with WVU . One thing is for certain , Crest will play vs Maryland . DH remembers last year and Crest will be eager to show the home folks how good he is . The thing that has changed for incoming F like Crest is that physically they are ready to play .

    • pcm

      Someone once told me football is a game of thirds: 1/3 Fundamentals (Block, tackle, etc), 1/3 Offense Ability and 1/3 Mental.

      Getting Crest some snaps as a punt returner could simulate taking snaps out of a backfield. Opposed to taking actual offensive snaps and the whole world seeing it.

  • spiralninja

    Good Stuff. We appreciate the hard work A.T.

    "reporters did get to watch the defensive front seven take on the offensive line in a blitz pick-up exercise."

    ^^^ How'd this turn out? It'd be great to her more about the O line.

    • Allan Taylor

      The first unit O-line seemed to plug most of the gaps, but the second group whiffed on a few stunts. I would guess there were 15 to 20 reps shared by the two groups.

      • notorious

        The early returns on Crest look like he might actually pan out. Leave it to Holgorsen to use the first good QB he's recruited to WVU to return punts.

  • any major dude

    Completely baffled about DH's plans for Crest. His special-team availability depends on his role in the offense? The very fact that the coaches haven't figured out his role on offense is baffling. He won't be redshirted. He may return punts. He works as the third string QB in practice but his offensive role has yet to be decided? Am I the only one confused here? Maybe there's some kind of wildcat role for Crest being planned. Hope not-I hate the wildcat.

    • Allan Taylor

      @AnyMajorDude: To be fair, we're only 12 days into preseason camp, hardly enough time to determine a newcomer's functionality. If Crest can learn the system enough to help WVU win a game with his situational availability at QB, it might be worth skipping a redshirt and giving him live-action prep work for 2015.

  • Chase

    Good work Allan.

  • Mike

    I see a big year ahead for Rushel Shell. He's potentially the top talent in the backfield and now he's playing on a big stage, with Alabama up first. Bring us an early Christmas present and run for over 200 yards against Saban's bunch!

    • Ron from Morgantown

      Maybe he has such a big year that he declares for the NFL draft after only one year at WVU ? Wouldn't that be something ?

      • pcm

        I would say that that would be the best case scenario. With all of the backs WVU has now, losing Shell to the NFL in 2015 shouldn't be a big setback.