Rushel Shell has watched how successful running back Ray Graham has been in Pitt's new offense. That was one of the things that helped convince Shell to choose Pitt.
Shell, the record-breaking running back at Hopewell High School, announced at a news conference this morning that he will attend Pitt next season. Shell, a senior, is ranked by scouting services as one of the top five running backs in the country. He became the WPIAL's all-time leading rusher a few weeks ago and has close to 8,000 career yards.
"They have that -- what's it called -- high-octane offense?" Shell said. "Ray Graham is the leading rusher in the nation right now, so you can't complain about that. I think [Pitt's offense] would fit me well."
Graham is actually the second-leading rusher in the country, averaging 149.8 yards a game. But Shell's point was obvious.
"Why not come in and try to take up where Graham left off?" Shell said.
Pitt offered Shell a scholarship when he was a freshman and when Dave Wannstedt was the Panthers' coach. Then Shell got to know new Pitt coach Todd Graham and his staff -- and Shell liked what he saw.
By this past spring, Shell had scholarship offers from many colleges, including Penn State, Alabama, Florida, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Oregon, among others. Although Shell said a few weeks ago that Pitt and Alabama were his top two choices, he said he actually decided in the summer that Pitt was it. He just didn't want to make it public.
Shell never visited Alabama and the Crimson Tide had hardly recruited Shell in recent months.
Shell wore a navy blue suit to make his announcement in Hopewell's auxiliary gymnasium. He said one of the other reasons he chose Pitt was because it is close to home.
"Who wouldn't want their family and friends to be able to drive 45 minutes to come watch you play?" Shell said. "I guess that's a big bonus."
Although Shell made a verbal commitment to Pitt, he can't sign a binding letter of intent with Pitt until February.
Shell has 7,825 yards rushing in his career and could become only the fifth running back in Pennsylvania history to rush for 8,000 yards.
Hopewell plays Central Valley tonight in a game that will be televised live by ESPNU. Shell did not play last week because of a concussion but will play tonight. He has 1,059 yards on 150 attempts this season.