On Labor Day night of this year, the Pittsburgh Panthers are going to announce themselves to the Atlantic Coast Conference in front of the entire nation. On Sept. 2, the Panthers begin their ACC tenure by facing off with the Florida State Seminoles on their home turf at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
While the college football world will be watching intently to how Pitt adjusts to their new conference, all eyes should be on one player in particular. That player is sophomore running back, Rushel Shell.
Seeing limited playing time last year behind senior Ray Graham, it’s now time for Shell to step up and carry the load in the backfield. In Pitt’s 6-7 campaign last season, Shell finished with 641 yards on 141 carries with just 4 TDs. As a freshman playing behind an experienced senior like Graham, it was a nice introduction to the world of college football for the young man.
But, now that the introduction has been made, it’s time for Shell to stand up on a table with a bullhorn and scream, “I’M HERE!”
Pittsburgh fans have been excited about Shell since his commitment to the Steel City. Couple the hype he had coming in with trying to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors such as LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, and Graham, there certainly is a lot of pressure on the young man’s shoulders to begin with. However, that’s a big part of college football today. He just has to channel the pressure into success.
With the passing portion of Pitt’s offense going through a bit of a transition period, Shell succeeding is even more crucial. The Panthers will be settling in with a new QB and reliable go-to target Mike Shanahan is no longer there either. With no preseason to begin with, we may see Shell relied upon a lot in the FSU game while head coach Paul Chryst tests the waters of the passing game.
Shell will still have to answer all the questions that every running back has to answer with their play on the field. Is he durable enough to carry the brunt of the load for the entire season? Does he have any issues with ball control? Can he catch out of the backfield effectively?
In due time, those questions will be answered. But, if the answers to those questions are all favorable, then the Pitt Panthers need to be looked at as a legitimate threat to make an impact in the ACC right off the bat.