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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.





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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