Pitt running back Rushel Shell will take some "time away from football," according to a statement released Thursday by Panthers coach Paul Chryst.
Shell, a former Hopewell High School star, is considering a transfer from the university, but has not officially requested paperwork to do so, according to multiple sources.
"Like many college freshmen, Rushel is working through some challenges right now," Chryst said in the statement. "As it is for all members of our team, my most important concern is his personal well-being. Rushel and his family have our full support. We are giving him time away from football to work through this situation, but he very much remains a part of our family on a daily basis. We want to be sensitive and respectful of Rushel, and I would ask others to do the same."
Shell was not present Thursday at Pitt's practice, his second consecutive missed session. Chryst said Tuesday he wasn't sure of a timetable for Shell's return, only noting that Shell had "a couple things" to work through before returning.
Chryst declined to comment specifically on Shell's situation, but did explain his general philosophy toward players who are thinking about transferring.
"I think all these guys, you want to do what's best for each individual," Chryst said. "That's paramount. These are individuals, and then you also want to make sure that you're doing what's best for your team. And I think you can do them both at the same time."
The reasons for Shell's possible departure are unclear. A source indicated that the rising sophomore met with coaches Wednesday to discuss the situation, but as of Thursday evening had not made a final decision.
Chryst said that, when dealing with 18- to 22-year-old players, each situation requires its own blueprint.
"I think every person's different and, because of that, people make decisions differently," Chryst said. "You communicate, and there is no set formula, I don't think."
Shell entered spring practice as the Panthers' unquestioned No. 1 running back. As a freshman, he rushed for 641 yards and four touchdowns backing up graduated Ray Graham.
In his four-year career at Hopewell, Shell set the Pennsylvania rushing record with 9,078 yards. He verbally committed to the Panthers in October 2011 and was the most prominent player in Chryst's first recruiting class that signed in February 2012.
If Shell decides to transfer, junior Isaac Bennett likely would assume the starting role, with redshirt sophomore Malcolm Crockett taking over the No. 2 spot. The duo combined for 191 yards and three touchdowns (all by Bennett) on 41 carries in 2012.
Bennett and Crockett received all the first-team snaps Thursday in practice.
"I've just been ready," Bennett said.
"We've been working together. It's fun being out there, so, when [coach] calls my name, I'm just ready to do my part."
Sam Werner: email@example.com and Twitter: @SWernerPG. First Published March 29, 2013 4:00 AM