PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Rushel Shell wore No. 1 for a reason at Hopewell. The all-time leading rusher in PIAA history is used to dominating the gridiron, but he’s not used to chasing someone else who wears that number, at least not on his own team.

Shell’s true freshman season at Pitt has begun with some growing pains, which are to be expected for any player getting his first exposure to the college game. With Ray Graham trying to regain full health and backup running back Isaac Bennett having an impressive camp, he’s struggling to find his place in Pitt’s loaded backfield. Those struggles have been punctuated by a minor back injury.

Despite joining the Panthers with understandably lofty expectations, Shell sounds amenable to taking a redshirt in 2012, all things considered.

“At first I didn’t want to. I just wanted to get out here and play. But when I sat down and talked to some of my teammates, I realized that it’s a big process,” he told the media Monday. “If I got redshirted, it’d be one more year to get better, to get accustomed to the speed, to get a little plays down. So I wouldn’t be mad, but I’m still trying to compete to get out there now.”

Shell was ranked among the top running backs nationally by MaxPreps, once hailed as the top “big back” overall by CBS recruiting guru Tom Lemming. It would be a disappointing decision, on some level, to anxious Pitt fans who have been waiting a long while for an impact player of such hype and pedigree to join their team, but it would be a rational one.

On the other hand, if the status of Graham’s bum knee remains uncertain, and if head coach Paul Chryst decides redshirt freshman Malcolm Crockett can’t cut the mustard behind Bennett, that could leave the door open for Shell, at least in the early stages of the upcoming season.

Pitt kicks off the 2012 campaign Sat., Sept. 1 at Heinz Field with a 6:00 P.M. contest against Youngstown State.

Stay tuned to your flagship home of Pitt football, SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan, for more this Thursday, as we broadcast live from the annual Fan Fest at Heinz Field 6:00-8:00 P.M.