West Virginia got some big news on July 26. Former Pittsburgh running back Rushel Shell will be transferring to West Virginia, according to an ESPN report. Shell will sit out the 2013 season to serve out the NCAA's transfer penalty before becoming eligible to play in 2014.
As a true freshman at Pittsburgh, Shell rushed for 641 yards and four touchdowns. He also caught nine passes for 103 yards. The dual-threat back will fit perfectly in head coach Dana Holgorsen's system.
The Mountaineers only return three starters on the offense, but they do return junior running back Andrew Buie. He rushed for 851 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Junior reserve back Dustin Garrison returns as well. He rushed for 949 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011-12. Butler Community College transfer Dreamius Smith rounds out the backfield trio.
Holgorsen released a tentative depth chart in April and the number of upperclassmen at skilled offensive positions is glaring. Of the six receivers he listed, junior Kevin White is the lone upperclassman.
This year may be a roller coaster ride for Mountaineer fans. The offense will be fun—Holgorsen's teams are always fast-paced and entertaining—but it will show signs of growing pains. The talent lost from 2012's team will be difficult to replace. Quarterback Geno Smith, receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and JD Woods are gone. So is center Joe Madsen.
With a solid running back in its future, 2014 could be a special year for West Virginia. Shell's power running and breakaway speed will impress Mountaineer fans. He has already impressed recruiting scouts. From Scout.com's Bob Lichtenfels:
He is a franchise back that every team wants. He can run inside or outside. He is very patient and has outstanding vision. He has a thick build which allows him to be able to tote the rock 20+ carries.
Shell was a 5-star running back in the class of 2012 and was ranked No. 4 by position. He received numerous offers of scholarships from schools including Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Oregon and Tennessee.
Shell is a big get for West Virginia. Landing one of the top running backs in the country is a feather in Holgorsen's hat. Mountaineer fans will have to show patience as their youthful and inexperienced offense matures this season.
The payoff will be in 2014.