According to ESPN and the Los Angeles Times, former University of Pittsburgh running back Rushel Shell will not transfer to UCLA as previously reported.
According to the LA Times, Shell intends to return to the Pittsburgh Panthers’ football program.
An anonymous LA Times source said the reason for Shell’s desire to return to Pittsburgh is due to the fact that the distance between Shell and his two twin daughters living in Pennsylvania would be too great.
Shell was one of the top recruits in Pennsylvania according to Rivals.com. The recruiting website ranked him as the sixth best running back in the nation and the 55th best player in the Class of 2012. The highly touted recruit from Hopewell High School (PA) opted to stay close to home, accepting a football scholarship from Pittsburgh out of 13 total offers, including one from UCLA.
Shell entered spring practice as Pittsburgh starter after a productive freshman season where he garnered 641 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Midway through spring practice, Shell announced his intention to transfer to the Bruins. According to the aforementioned reports, however, Shell has changed his mind about rushing for UCLA at the Rose Bowl. As stated earlier, the soon-to-be sophomore wishes to transfer back to Pittsburgh and since he was not officially enrolled at UCLA, it will make the process of possibly returning to the Panthers less complicated.
With the decision of Shell not to join UCLA, the current state of the Bruins’ running back competition is as follows.
With senior Damien Thigpen’s status unclear after suffering a severe knee injury late last season, junior Jordon James appears to be leading the Bruins’ running back depth chart, with senior Malcolm Jones and sophomore Steven Manfro competing for the number two spot. However, the race for UCLA’s top running back spot is wide open and either one of the three could become the starter at the conclusion of fall practice.
James’ career has been plagued with fumble issues, although he has shown flashes of brilliance at times, both at running back and wide receiver. Jones was a highly sought after recruit from Oaks Christian HS (CA), however he has yet to make a significant mark with the Bruins. Jones returned to UCLA as a walk-on this season after previously intending to transfer to San Diego State. Manfro was a slot receiver for UCLA in his redshirt freshman season, and although he made a mark there, racking up 287 yards and one touchdown out of 28 receptions, his natural position is at running back.
Manfro was underrated in the recruiting process, as he only received a 2-star rating from Rivals despite rushing for 2,553 yards and 29 touchdowns. In addition, Manfro rushed for a record-breaking 420 yards on only 15 carries is his senior season for Valencia HS (CA), breaking current New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen’s Foothill League record for rushing yards in a game. He ran the ball sparingly for the Bruins last season, although he made the most of his opportunities when it counted. He rushed for 70 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries for the Bruins in his redshirt freshman season. Manfro looks to be another contender for extended playing time for UCLA this season. Redshirt freshman Paul Perkins is also a contender for playing time, joining the team after an excellent high school career.
As for Shell, he could turn out to be one of the better running backs in the Big East when his college career concludes, as he would appear to be once again the Panthers’ projected starting running when he rejoins the fold in Pittsburgh.