Pitt's Rushel Shell finds running room against Virginia Tech's Michael Cole and Detrick Bonner last season.
By Sam Werner Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As debate swirled in the past 24 hours about whether Pitt should welcome back running back Rushel Shell, the only person whose opinion really mattered, Pitt coach Paul Chryst, didn't see it as much of a difficult decision at all.
Shell will not be returning to Pitt, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed Monday.
According to the source, the door was never really open for Shell to return to the program, and Chryst did not seriously entertain the option of him coming back.
Up until this week, Shell was set to transfer to UCLA and would have had to enroll for summer classes there this week. After an apparent last-minute change of heart, though, the Hopewell High School graduate recently reached out to Pitt coaches about a possible return to the Panthers.
Chryst, though, decided it best for Pitt to move on without him.
When asked in April about his philosophy toward potential transfers, Chryst said he always tries to do what's best for the player but also do "what's best for the team."
Shell's future destination, meanwhile, remains in limbo. He did not return phone calls Monday.
He could still transfer to another Division I-A school that would accept him, where he would almost certainly have to sit out a year, or opt to move down a level if he wishes to play right away.
He also could enroll at a junior college for a year before returning to a I-A program in 2014.
Shell was slated to be the Panthers' No. 1 running back in spring practices, but took some "time away from football" before making the decision to leave.
Pitt blocked him from transferring to Arizona or Arizona State, two of his preferred destinations, and he chose UCLA.
When it came time to leave, though, Shell had reservations about moving far away from his 16-month-old twin daughters, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
Wherever he ends up, Shell's natural talent is undeniable. He set the Pennsylvania state high school rushing record at Hopewell with 9,078 career yards.
During his freshman season at Pitt, he ran for 641 yards and four touchdowns as a backup to the now-graduated Ray Graham.
He broke out in the third week of the season against Virginia Tech, when he ran for 157 yards.
His first year at Pitt was not without its rough patches, though. Shell was suspended for the team's opener, the first game of his college career, for a violation of team policy.
With Shell gone and a return out of the question, junior Isaac Bennett remains the favorite for the starting job heading into fall camp. He'll get help from redshirt sophomore Malcolm Crockett and probably true freshman James Conner, who just enrolled at Pitt this week.