Pitt blocks 5-star back from transfer to ASU

Former Pittsburgh running back Rushel Shell, who was recruited to the school by Arizona State coach Todd Graham, has been released from his scholarship with the restriction he cannot transfer to ASU or Arizona, reports said Friday.

Graham recruited Shell, ranked by Scout.com as a five-star running back in the 2012 class, and got him to commit to Pitt before controversially leaving for the ASU job after just one season. Shell signed with Pitt anyway. According to ESPN’s Joe Schad, Pitt blocked ASU because of Graham’s presence at the school and blocked Arizona because coach Rich Rodriguez has former Pitt coaches on his staff.

While ASU’s interest in Shell is not clear, multiple reports indicate his interest in the school, along with California and UCLA. Pitt also blocked Shell from transferring to any school within the ACC, a move common in the release process. Shell can appeal the restrictions of his release.

Shell, an Aliquippa, Pa., native out of Hopewell Senior High, rushed for 641 yards and four touchdowns as a backup at Pitt last season. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound back was projected to start for the Panthers this season.

Graham took heavy criticism in Dec. 2011 when he abruptly left Pitt to become the Sun Devils head coach, reportedly refusing to talk with a Pitt athletics official who came to his home and relaying his departure to the team through a text message sent to an athletic department staffer. Graham later acknowledged mistakes made in his hasty exit, which he attributed to the fast pace of the coaching search process.

Arizona State already added one former Pitt player last season. Cornerback Lloyd Carrington joined the team in September and sat out the season, per NCAA transfer rules. Graham coached Carrington in 2011, and the 6-foot, 188-pound redshirt junior is currently competing for a starting spot.