WVU’s Shell seeks strong finish
Rushel Shell politely disagreed when someone likened his first season in a West Virginia uniform to a roller coaster.
“More than that,” he said. “More than up and down.”
Then how about three acts?
In Act 1, Shell made his Mountaineers debut with a bang, running through and over defenders. In the first six games, he rushed for a team-best 490 yards on 111 carries (a 4.5 average) and six touchdowns. He caught 15 passes for another 100 yards.
But in Game 7 against Baylor, the sophomore from Hopewell who sat out last season after transferring from Pitt suffered a high-ankle sprain in the first quarter after three carries.
He missed the rest of that game and all of the next against Oklahoma State and saw limited action against TCU and Texas. The tally over the four games was 16 carries, 70 yards, one reception, no touchdowns.
That was Act 2, and it turned out Shell was being less than forthright with coaches and the medical staff. His ankle never fully healed.
“It was really frustrating at times, not being able to run, not being able to make my cuts,” he said. “At times I let my pride take over what I could actually do, and I tried to force it. I wasn’t ready, and I guess I set myself back more and more.
“Everyone kept asking me and I kept saying, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’ It was more me trying to push myself, and it didn’t work out too well. I was just trying to be out on the field. Sitting out that whole year, I didn’t want to miss any more football than I already missed. It was just my competitiveness. I wanted to be part of the team and contribute.”
Shell actually made a huge contribution in the eyes of the coaches during the Oklahoma State game, in which he never played. With the temperature exceeding 100 degrees on the field, he was busy on the sidelines and even in the huddle keeping his teammates supplied with water and encouragement.
“That game showed me how much of a team player he was,” running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider said. “That game showed me more character about the kid than any time. It was hot. He ended up being a water boy for the offense and defense, was in the huddle. Things like that people don’t talk about. I’m talking what it takes to be a good teammate. I liked that kid even more after that.”
Act 3 for Shell began with the bye week, allowing his ankle to mend.
In the Mountaineers’ most recent game, against Kansas State, he carried 15 times, the most in more than a month, for 60 yards and caught two passes.
On one, he hurdled a would-be tackler en route to an 18-yard gain.
“I started strong,” he said. “Now I’ve got to focus on finishing strong and getting ready for the offseason.”
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.