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April 3, 2013

 

Number Four on my list of concerns, five being the least worrisome and one being the most, is our remaining talent at Running Back.

Anyone who has been following PITT football, (and letting our FSU friends in on it), has to know by now our projected starting tailback, Rushel Shell, has taken his ball and gone home.  Actually, he isn’t going home as that is in the local area but going about as far away from PITT, the city of Pittsburgh, home and his fiancée’ and twins as he can get.  He’ll end up in the Pac-10.

Shell was a prime recruit for PITT in that he was a local product and one who set the schoolboy record for yards gained in a high school career.  Not only that, he went to the same HS as PITT god Tony Dorsett and ran to glory on “Tony Dorsett Field”.  Here is a sampling of what he did in his high school career:

Shell rushed for a state-record 9,078 yards on 1,107 carries (8.2 avg.)…scored 110 career touchdowns, the most in WPIAL history…set a national record with 39 consecutive 100-yard games, eclipsing former Oklahoma Sooners great Billy Sims’ mark of 38 set in 1975…Shell rushed for 200 yards or more in 25 games…in 44 career contests, he averaged 206 yards per game…rushed for more than 2,000 yards in each of his final three seasons” …etc, etc.

So not only did he set PA records but topped some national marks as well.  Seems like he’d be a perfect fit at his local university wouldn’t he? Especially since PITT is a school with a strong track record of putting running backs into the NFL.

Not so fast though as it seems young Mr. Shell had other ideas, rather self-centered ones and, in this writer’s opinion, misguided ones, but that is part of being an 18 year old who suddenly finds oneself out of the nest and drifting about on his own in college.  Of course, that wasn’t the case in Shell’s situation;  he was surrounded but people who not only wished him well but were dedicated to making his transition to college as smooth as possible, to say nothing of giving him a starting role on a BCS team but hey, there has to be an excuse in there somewhere, right?

Shell came to PITT with extraordinary hype and huge expectations on the part of the PITT fans. As a true freshman, had an exemplary game against an ACC opponent where he racked up 157 yards.  He ran hard and was tough to bring down, but other than one game that he had a rather average year with a lot of inconsistency.  Let’s not say this isn’t a loss of talent for us – it is.  It just isn’t a big enough loss to grind the teeth over.

So the coaching staff and remaining players turned the page yesterday and got right on with spring practice.  It was pretty telling that when Head Coach Paul Chryst walked onto the practice field at 2:00 pm yesterday he had a big grin on his face.  I’m not sure he was too disappointed with how things turned out.

So, with all that drama finished we have waiting in the wings two pretty talented running backs in JR Isaac Bennett and rsSO Malcolm Crockett.  Both were recruited in 2011 by ex-HC Todd Graham to be rushers in his “High Octane” ‘spreadable’ offense and  both subsequently stuck with the program after Todd Graham slithered away in the dead of night.  It’s good for them and good for PITT that they did stay as they will both get the chance to shine this coming season.

Isaac Bennett has gotten more playing time of the two. He been a fill in 3rd string back and has performed well in limited action.  Last season Bennett rushed for 29 times for 141 yards with four TDs on a 4.9 ypc average. That’s pretty productive for 29 carries.  Over his career he’s had a 4.3 ypc with five TDs.  He went into this spring the solid #2 back and so now has an edge as the starter.

Watching Bennett yesterday I had the feeling that he’s going to be pretty good for us this year.  He was hitting the holes quickly and breaking LOS tackle attempts.  At one point the 1st string O & D were running a “1st and 10″ drill series and Bennett picked up six+ yards on four straight plays.  Then on the next snap he broke through the LOS and cut outside left for a big gain.  He looked good yesterday and in my conversations with people who have watched every practice he has looked pretty consistent also.

It will help that the offensive line will be better this year than last and with that I think Bennett, when given the ball on a regular basis, will make us pleasantly surprised at the production he brings as the starter.  Keeping our fingers crossed of course.

Malcolm Crockett has played sparingly.  He redshirted his freshman year and had 12 carries for 50 yards for 4.2 ypc.  He’s been banged up this spring and hasn’t had the chance to get into real competition reps but his place in the two deep is somewhat assured.

Behind those two we have walk-on Desmond Brown who is small and quick and converted WR Demetrious Davis.  Brown may get snaps in mop up or in case of injury but that will be the extent for those two I believe.

Coming in as 2013 recruits we have two intriguing options to help fill in the Shell-less gap.  6’2” 232 lbs James Conner, who played both RB and DE in HS, is a big, bruising back who will get a chance to move over to offense and stay there.  He was recruited as a DE but was impressive carrying the ball also.  He runs straight up and down and will benefit by training camp and coaching but he may be called on sooner than later.

All that said, one reason why I think we can look forward with anticipation is that the transfer by Shell almost assures that our star 2013 recruit – Tyler Boyd – will have some plays designed for him carrying the ball.

Boyd was a prolific local running back and in three years of play carried 397 times for 5009 yards and 89(!) TDs.  That’s a 12.6 ypc average and scoring a TD every fifth time he touched the ball.  Oh Boy!!

Here’s the rub though.  Boyd is coming to PITT at around 6’2” and 180 LBs.  Not the ideal size to be thrown in at RB as a true FR.  He’s a speed burning game changer and while he’ll start out at WR we’ll see him help out at RB also.





WBB it was Danny White, All American…

Comment by Kenny 04.04.13 @ 10:27 am

Wardapalooza, Larry Fitz, was best Pitt reciever ever and he left early. Some of the skilled players you got to see, like Derril Revis, Larry Fitz, Shady McCoy, Dion Lewis, Ray Graham were every bit as good as the players of the 70s and early 80s. The difference was on the offensive and defensive lines. That’s where the Panthers dominated. Bill Fralic, Jimbo Covert, Mark May, Russ Grim and Jim Sweeney were great offensive linemen. Not to mention Hugh Green, Ricky Jackson, Chris Doleman, and a host of others on defensive side. That’s what I like best about the focus I see from Paul Chryst. When you dominate up front, your skilled players are given the opportunites to do well and accomplish mush more.

Comment by Justinian 04.04.13 @ 10:28 am

Tex I was never sold on Kordell either…

Comment by Kenny 04.04.13 @ 10:29 am

Emel did not see your post on White. Do you know the years Denny Booker of Kiski Area played there…

Comment by Kenny 04.04.13 @ 10:31 am

@ Wardapalooza, hopefully you’ll still be alive when Pitt decides to get “really good again” so that you can enjoy that Pitt glory at some point in your life.

The thing that made the entire 70’s experience that much sweeter was that immediately preceeding “the Major change in Pitt Football” we just sucked sooooo bad, that it was unimaginable that we could do anything positive, right away. Then, the first game of the season, Pitt goes down to the SEC powerhouse, Georgia, and we play them to a tie “between the hedges”. It was like WTF???? Who are these guys? Then, off we went from theere, for a very interesting four year ride with Jonney Majors and Co. Sure was fun!

BTW, for all of us that lament the loss of Rushel Shell, Yes, Pitt lost Shell, but what nobody is saying is that apparently, we lost him while he was still a member of the team, from a mental standpoint. Shell needed to be a presence on this team going forward. It seems that not only did he fail in the regard of keeping his own priorities in order but he failed to take on the leadership resposibilities that such a high profile player has the opportunity to assume, if he so desires.

Losing Shell was a lose-lose-lose situation. Pitt’s loss, Shell’s lose and it looks like the family’s lose too, at least, from the sounds of it, considering some tweets going out from his twin daughter’s Mommy.

In any case, that kind of negative energy does no good for anyone. Even if Shell had stayed with the team, would it have been subversive for team spirit in the long run? Will never know, but what we do know now is going forward the team won’t be burdened by whatever baggage was cramping Mr. Shell’s style.

It will be very interesting to follow how Shell does in the future, I hope that he can figure it out in the long run, if for no other reason than for the best interests of those in his family that are depending on him into the future.

Comment by Dr. Tom 04.04.13 @ 10:43 am

@ Kenny

No I don’t remember Denny Booker. I do remember watching the 1973 Fiesta Bowl on a Black & White TV at my home in Stanton Heights then.

And I think it was on during a weeknite.
And who would know Danny White would go on to be the Cowgirls starting QB. I think Pitt’s QB was Billy Daniels from Montour HS.

Comment by EMel 04.04.13 @ 10:54 am

Jogging my memory I think the MIzlou TV network broadcast the game, because of course there was NO ESPN and there was only CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS & Channel 53m, a UHF channel.

I think Channel 4, WTAE carried the feed from the Mizlou Network as they’ve always had a tie in with Pitt since they carried the Johnny Majors TV show. lol

Comment by EMel 04.04.13 @ 10:57 am

I’m still not sold on Kordell.

Comment by TX Panther 04.04.13 @ 6:42 am

TX P, you do know that Kordell is married to one of the Hollywood Housewives (or something like that), don’t you?

Actually, I didn’t know until I just read that he filed for divorce.

Comment by wbb 04.04.13 @ 11:11 am

The bigger question for Chryst is the same one for Dixon: Will their teams be ready to play every game and will they play the entire game? Both football and basketball dug holes sometimes too deep to climb out of in the second half. Consistent play and team unity go a long way toward overcoming the loss of potential stars.

Comment by TonyinHouston 04.04.13 @ 11:15 am

Tony Dorsettt FRESHMAN – 1777 yards and 13 TDs.
Rushel Shell is not Tony Dorsett or even close.

Comment by Orlando Truit 04.04.13 @ 11:30 am

EMel i watched the game too while stationed at Fort Dix, NJ. Frank Kush was one hard butted football coach. His practices were legendary…

Comment by Kenny 04.04.13 @ 11:30 am

I knew Frank Kush’s niece … she had a big crush on a good friend of mine. She lived near Sharon, PA

Comment by wbb 04.04.13 @ 11:58 am

I saw on Rivals that Chipola JC in Florida’s center, Joseph Uchebo, is schedued to visit Pitt next weekend. The site lists him as having medium intrest in 10 teams. Among the better programs listed are Pitt, Louisville, West Virginia, and Xavier.

Comment by Justinian 04.04.13 @ 12:13 pm

I remember Curtis Martin. We sat behind the PSU bench at a game. Curtis ran right at us and was pushed back but there was no whistle. The PSU defenders held him up for at least 15 seconds before they ripped the ball from him for a fumble. The officials were terrible. Curtis declared for the NFL later that year.

Needless to say Curtis is in the NFL Hall of Fame where he belongs.

Comment by Frank MD 04.04.13 @ 12:17 pm

I knew Kush was from Western PA but check this out from his Wiki Page:

That success led to him accepting the head coaching job at the University of Pittsburgh on January 4, 1969. However, just five days later, Kush had a change of heart and returned to Arizona State.

Kush’s return would begin a memorable era in Sun Devil football history with five consecutive Western Athletic Conference championships as the team won 50 of 56 games from 1969 to 1973. During this time, Arizona State won the 1970 Peach Bowl and the first three editions of the Fiesta Bowl. In 1974, the team dropped to 7–4, but bounced back with authority the following year when they went 12–0, capping the year with a thrilling 17–14 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Fiesta Bowl, a game in which Kush’s son, Danny, kicked three field goals, including the game winner.

And then there was this — (kind of hits home with Mike Rice situation:)

Dismissal from Arizona State: In September 1979 former Sun Devil punter Kevin Rutledge filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against the school, accusing Kush and his staff of mental and physical harassment that forced him to transfer. The most dramatic charge was that Kush had punched Rutledge in the mouth after a bad punt in the October 28, 1978, game against the Washington Huskies. During the next few weeks, overzealous fans turned things ugly when the insurance office of Rutledge’s father suffered a fire and the family’s attorney received two death threats.[2]

Comment by wbb 04.04.13 @ 12:18 pm

Some answers on Steven Adams… link to stuff.co.nz

Comment by Carmen 04.04.13 @ 12:41 pm

And it continues — just heard that JJ Moore is transferring.

Comment by Hank the Tank 04.04.13 @ 1:06 pm

Mike Young and St. Bennys is playing ESPNU and the game just went into the second quarter…

Comment by Kenny 04.04.13 @ 1:31 pm

I believe Young is #21…

Comment by Kenny 04.04.13 @ 1:32 pm

It makes sense for J.J. Moore to transfer. He will graduate and won’t have to sit out a year. He wouldn’t get a lot of minutes at 3 next year cause of Patterson and he would be a back up at the 4 to Young. He can probably start at a different school at the 3. Pitt is better off giving his minutes to Chris Jones.

Comment by Wardapalooza 04.04.13 @ 1:33 pm

My bad he is #2 and he is no stiff…

Comment by Kenny 04.04.13 @ 1:34 pm

I agree with you Ward and hope the rumors of him being a good shooter and working hard on his handle are correct. If he get his handle improved put him at SG, it sure would give the position good length at 6’7″…

Comment by Kenny 04.04.13 @ 1:42 pm

Where did you hear that JJ Moore is transferring? I can’t find anything that even hints at that beside this post

Comment by FTM 04.04.13 @ 1:45 pm

lets face it that Shell is a punk kid that has not had to work hard for anything his whole life; and at the signs of adversity he fled. I for one wholeheartedly think we are fortunate to have Coach Chryst and his leadership to help groom this boys into men that will succeed on this and the next level of their lives. For every door that is opened there is an opportunity and it is up to someone this year and the future years to seize it be it someone on the team already or coming in the future (Shai!)
Hail to Pitt Gentlemen!

Comment by pittisit37 04.04.13 @ 2:36 pm

Shell… who? Name sounds vaguely familiar… rings a bell… but can’t quite put my finger on him? Hopefully someone who will do well in life…

Adams, nice article above… I get both side of this but it is just obvious in his case 1 more year of development and producing to his potential would reduce the risk of dropping too far in the draft… risk of getting hurt (insurance for that).

The risk he takes on now is that teams will not take him with a top pick and slides into mediocre $.

Kind of similar to McCoy and Lewis… both similar in that they were not ‘locks’ to go high in the draft. Money wise it has worked out for McCoy. For Lewis staying in college may have positioned him better in the $ structure of the NFL coming out.

Good luck to Kid… he is carrying a lot of family burden and at least we know for sure he is trying to do the right thing for his family as he sees it…. just hope he does not slide…

… who was the other Pitt BB player… Taft? For every Blair there’s a Taft…

Comment by Pittscript 04.04.13 @ 2:54 pm

Chas intimated what in my opinion is the primary reason Schell is running for his life.
He is running from the burden of the responsibility of taking care of a family. Many men and women regardless of age cannot handle the sacrifice reguired on that team.
PAC-12 reinforces this premise.

Comment by pittisit 04.04.13 @ 3:12 pm

@Reed

Good stuff on the HS coach at practice.

What is the inside on Shai? Seems like a real good talent. If he has anything like Brian Davis ability he would be unbelievable (so long as the end result isn’t the same)

Comment by Pitt Fan in Atlanta 04.04.13 @ 3:13 pm

Looks like this area is fast becoming the Bermuda Triangle of college sports. Pitt’s luck is well…need I say more….WVU sports is in the toilet, and we all know about PSU…..and now this too:

Top Penn State recruit won’t join team in fall

link to post-gazette.com

Misery loves company….

Comment by Jackagain 04.04.13 @ 3:33 pm

FTM — can’t say…internal source that was correct on the Shell, Adams, and trey Z news. Nothing released yet, but the word is a transfer to Manhattan. Sorry for the vagueness…not making it up, but we’ll have to wait for official release to see if its correct or not.

Comment by Hank the Tank 04.04.13 @ 3:34 pm

? Do we have 5 guys left who can play BB ?

Comment by CompLit 04.04.13 @ 3:56 pm

@CompLit, they have that 7 on 7 football in Nebraska.

Maybe a 5 on 5 league somewhere out there for us??

Comment by Dan 04.04.13 @ 3:59 pm

JUCO Center Joseph Ochebo (6’11”) will be on an official visit next weekend at Pitt. He was the 83rd ranked player in the 2011 class for ESPN.

link to youtube.com

Comment by Jackagain 04.04.13 @ 4:01 pm

JUCO Center Joseph Ochebo (6’11”) will be on an official visit next weekend at Pitt. He was the 83rd ranked player in the 2011 class for ESPN.

link to youtube.com

Comment by Jackagain 04.04.13 @ 4:01 pm

I also was at Pitt Stadium in 1975 when TD ripped off 303 rushing yards. Had season tickets, if memory serves me right, in section 104 (about 4 rows from the top), which was on the lower part of cardiac hill, between the 5 and the goal line. Probably greatest game I have ever been at. Hail to Pitt!!!

Comment by pittman4ever 04.04.13 @ 4:07 pm

And now a big welcome to the new American Athletic Conference…

link to espn.go.com

We have the ACC and they have the AAC…..not sure I that part of this…

Comment by Jackagain 04.04.13 @ 4:12 pm

@ Jackagain – It is all about your order in the phone book!

Comment by CompLit 04.04.13 @ 4:35 pm

Never thought of that CompLit…LOL….now I really don’t like it!

Comment by Jackagain 04.04.13 @ 4:41 pm

Never thought of that CompLit…LOL….now I really don’t like it!

Comment by Jackagain 04.04.13 @ 4:41 pm

AAA and AAU were taken as were ABA, ABL, ABC, etc.

Comment by Pitt Dad 04.04.13 @ 5:09 pm

Phone book? What’s a phone book?

Comment by Pitt Dad 04.04.13 @ 5:17 pm

Thanks for the answer. Spoke to someone late this afternoon that’s pretty involved and he said that he hadn’t heard anything, so we will have to wait and see. I hope that it’s not true.

Comment by FTM 04.04.13 @ 5:32 pm

if I were JJ, I would transfer .. he is in no way, shape or form a 4. Heck, I see him as a 2 more than a 4 .. although of course, he is a 3.

Comment by wbb 04.04.13 @ 6:34 pm

Funny thing with Moore, he had 21 points against DePaul. Then only got like 12 minutes against Cuse.

Zeigler scored 18 points against DePaul.

If you remember Pitt scored it’s most points of the season or close to it against Depaul as they were both uptempo games.

Which further solidifies my season long argument that Pitt’s roster was filled with players who were better suited for an uptempo offense.

We know that Moore & Zeigler were, and while our bigs didn’t have many low post moves, they could run. And we had 10 deep remember. JD kept harping on 10 deep all year, yet he didn’t use an offense that would best take advantage of having a 10 deep roster.

Never will be able to figure that one out.

Comment by EMel 04.04.13 @ 10:58 pm

Is it any wonder some have transferred and according to Hank the Tank, more are considering transferring.

If you can’t figure out an uptempo offense, bring an asst. coach who can !!

Comment by EMel 04.04.13 @ 11:05 pm

@wbb

Another square peg/round hole thing.

Comment by EMel 04.04.13 @ 11:07 pm

I just don’t get all the coach bashing, Dixon has the best winning pct in big east history and is 5th in win pct in the nation over his tenure and that include Gonzaga who is ahead of them and they play in a DII conf. JR will be a 4 year starter at the point D Johnson will be better than people think the incoming recruits are very good the only knock is that JD has had some resent bad luck with big men. So now he can’t coach? That’s BS!! Look at the other big men who have come thru Pitt and to say asst coaches are the reason for that success is crap too, what are their records as head coaches in big time programs? Cryst was put into the worst situation possible and has one year under his belt, he has had so much to deal with how can anyone evaluate what kind of coach he is until he has put his stamp on the program, that will take at least 4 years. Shouldn’t we as Pitt fans give him a chance to do so before we bash the shit out of him and just be glad that he didn’t go back to whisky!!

Comment by Steve h 04.05.13 @ 1:08 pm

I agree completely EMel…and Steve, it’s not coach bashing…it’s just that coaches have to change with the times or else. Even Chas Noll had to learn that the hard way in the 80’s.

Remember Bradshaw saying that the game had passed him by? As for Dixon’s wins….40% of them are rent-a-wins against garbage teams as EMel has pointed out clearly here for months, not to mention the NCAA selection committee for years….

Comment by Jackagain 04.05.13 @ 3:34 pm

I think Chryst went up in stature in the eyes of local HS coaches. They are up to their ears in ego’s and meddling parents and now they have support from a son of a high school coach.
I suspect they all knew, as did players that Shell got what he wanted and didn’t do any work. Think Shell was quiet about getting out of work? I don’t . Thrown off his HS basketball team. Think it was because he worked so hard it made the coaches look bad? Me either.
Old Pitt grad, I think you are 180 degrees off on this one. HS coaches here adored Paterno because he rewarded hard work, not because he kissed the ass of their star players.
The HS coaches need support on the hard work message. They just got it.

Comment by SFPitt 04.05.13 @ 4:27 pm

Every team plays garbage non cons. Best winning pct in Big east history including 12-6 this year and finishing 4 when projected to finish 6. Isn’t that coaching up? Losses in big east and NCAA tourney this year were to 2 final four teams tough draw. There is no one coming to Pitt better than JD.

Comment by Steve h 04.07.13 @ 1:43 am

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