The UCLA football program just got injected with a good deal of talent at the running-back position.
Former 5-star running back Rushel Shell announced that he will officially transfer from Pitt and head across the country to play for the Bruins.
For Shell, this signals a fresh start. The Aliquippa, Pa., native had somewhat of a rocky tenure during his freshman year with the Panthers. He was suspended for the season opener due to a violation of team rules. Shell was also plagued throughout the year with a myriad of minor nicks and injuries.
In a reserve role last season, Shell finished the year with 641 yards rushing on 141 carries.
There was a lot of hype surrounding Shell's entry into college. He was a local legend in the ranks of high school football in the Greater Pittsburgh area.
The doubters, the haters, the negative comments make success even more enjoyable so please keep it coming— Rushel Shell (@RushelShell) April 16, 2013
He rushed for an astounding 9,078 yards throughout his career—which broke the record for the most rushing yards in Pennsylvania state history. Shell also attended Hopewell High School, which produced Pitt legend Tony Dorsett.
Paul Chryst took over the Pitt job once Todd Graham left unceremoniously for Arizona State. Graham and his coaching staff were the ones that signed Shell. From a purely speculative standpoint, the two may not have gotten along well, considering that Chryst wasn't the one who recruited Shell to Pitt.
For many of the reasons above, Shell decided to transfer. Arizona State and Arizona (which has former Pitt assistant coaches on its staff) were thought to be likely destinations. However, Pittsburgh officials blocked any transfer to Arizona State and Arizona. That development helped to put UCLA in a good position for the talented back.
In terms of ability, Shell is quite talented. At 5'11" 215 pounds, he's a big, physical back who can run between the tackles. Additionally, he runs with power and displays above-average burst for a player his size.
More than anything, he's potentially an every-down back. When looking at the current roster, there might not be a back that fits the bill as such.
What does his commitment mean for UCLA?
For one thing, the backfield becomes instantly more talented. Shell won't be eligible to participate this season, but that might not be a bad thing.
With a redshirt year, he'll be able to get acclimated to life 3,000 miles away from home. Shell will also become familiar with Sal Alosi's vaunted conditioning program. With a year in the program, Shell should be able to get in outstanding shape.
Looking ahead, Shell's commitment fits a huge need. Damien Thigpen and Malcolm Jones will graduate after this season (unless Jones is given another year of eligibility). Jordon James is a redshirt junior and is on track to graduate after the 2014 season.
As of now, Shell and Paul Perkins are the only two underclassmen at the position. The Bruins were expected to land a running back in the 2014 recruiting cycle. With Shell in the fold, the impetus to land a high school product has been reduced.
Looking even further ahead, the UCLA offense could be absolutely devastating in 2014—the year that Shell becomes eligible.
Brett Hundley wlll be a redshirt junior. If his trajectory stays on course, he'll not only be a surefire Heisman Trophy candidate but also a potential high-first round draft pick in the NFL draft.
The young but talented receivers corps comprised of Devin Lucien, Jordan Payton and Devin Fuller will all be juniors. Additionally, UCLA has talented young players such as Thomas Duarte and Eldridge Massington, among others.
Lastly, the UCLA offensive line should be a major strength by 2014. Jake Brendel, Simon Goines and Torian White will all be juniors—and three-year starters. Oh, and Xavier Su'a-Filo will be a senior (should he not opt to leave for the NFL after this upcoming season).
Su'a-Filo is already considered to be perhaps the best offensive lineman in the conference. Should be stick around for his senior season, he should be in line to become a first team All-American at the guard position. The aforementioned four doesn't even include the stellar seven-man offensive line class that Jim Mora and Adrian Klemm signed this past February.
Mora is seriously on fire right now. UCLA Football is on a huge upswing at the moment. High school prospects are increasingly interested in the thriving program. Mora just came off a season in which he signed a top-five recruiting class nationally.
Will Shell make a big impact during his time at UCLA?
From a social media standpoint, he's been a rockstar. Not only has he been publicly marketing the university and the football team, but he's also taken the time to answer fan questions individually via video responses on Twitter.
Lastly, Mora has become the first current major college football coach to encourage gay athletes to play for his team.
All of the aspects mentioned above lend themselves to Mora's character as a man and as a leader of a football team. He's on the cutting-edge of many entities, and unsurprisingly, it's leading to success.
This newfound success is affording him the idea of selling his program to former 5-star athletes such as Shell.