Rushel Shell, who confirmed his choice of West Virginia as his transfer destination on Friday, had something of a second recruiting period during his search for a new school after leaving Pittsburgh following the 2012 season. His moves and interest were documented as fervidly as those of many highly-recruited high school seniors, and his announcement, which was also highlighted by ESPN, had the flavor of many similar sessions held on that outlet.
That's not to criticize Shell for the way he handled the transfer. On the contrary, he appeared to have made a thoughtful and considered decision. He included family considerations (proximity to his twin daughters was a factor) as well as personal ones, and didn't lash out when Pitt declined to accept a request to accept him back into the program. It's simply that he is now entering into a definite period of anonymity with the Mountaineer program.
Given his inability to play this year as he sits out his transfer season, and West Virginia's current policy of not allowing newcomers and those not playing to participate in interviews, Shell is going to fade into the background over the next few months -- at least until spring practice arrives. His contributions will come on the scout team (which are not to be discarded lightly). He'll have the chance to get his personal life settled, and fit in with his new teammates. How he handles that will likely go a long way toward determining his role on the team in 2014.
Of course, Shell's transfer brings to mind those of two other Pitt players who headed south for greener pastures. A.B. Brown made the move in 1986 and turned in two excellent seasons for WVU, including the 1988 perfect regular season. He amassed 1,937 yards on 377 carries and scored 13 times. Teammate Eugene Napoleon was just as successful. Although he played in a backup role to Brown, his three-year totals of 1,001 yards and seven scores were also very good. Those looking to draw parallels immediately point to those two players as indicators of potential success, but in reality they don't have anything to do with Shell's future.
When looking for those predictors, looking at the historical record is the first, and most natural move. If something worked in the past, why shouldn't it again? Or if it failed, should it be repeated? It's fun to look back, but the fact is that every situation is different, with different dynamics and events affecting the outcome. While every Mountaineer fan would love to see Shell duplicate the success of Brown and Napoleon, the truth is that his success or failure is his alone to decide.
There's no way to make a guaranteed prediction of Shell's future -- just as there's no way to do so for any incoming freshman or transfer. He does, though, have a chance at a fresh start, and one without the immediate pressure of performing on the field in his new home. Given the way he has handled the process to date, however, it seems like he is off to a good start. The end result, however, won't be know for a least a year.