He was recruited by Urban Meyer nearly five years ago, but John Peel has yet to catch a pass for the University of Utah football team.
Peel, a highly regarded receiver out of Scottsdale's Chaparral High School, has battled a variety of injuries as well as a position change in his five seasons but is back at receiver and having his best success as a Ute.
"John's had a very good fall camp," said Ute coach Kyle Whittingham. "He's finally healthy, knock on wood, and we've got to keep him that way. He's made it to every practice without issues and if that continues, he'll help us this fall."
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is pleased with the progress Peel has made this fall and envisions him being a key part of the Utes' offense.
"John Peel is one of the most improved players on the offense," said Ludwig. "He had a great summer and now has found his way into the two-deep rotation. He's a key player for us. In the four-wideout system, you've got to have seven, eight guys ready to go and he's in the mix. I'm glad he's with us he's having a great camp."
For Peel, just getting on the field has been an accomplishment.
He was part of Meyer's second recruiting class in early 2004 along with the likes of fellow seniors Brian Johnson, Robert Conley and Brent Casteel, after setting an Arizona state record for career touchdown receptions.
In his first fall camp in 2004, he tore a tendon in his knee and missed most of the season and used his redshirt year. In 2005 he was mostly used on the special teams, but missed the second half of the season with a groin injury before returning to play in the Emerald Bowl.
In the spring of 2006, the Utes needed help in the defensive backfield, so Peel switched to safety. He was playing well until midway through camp when he was taken by ambulance from practice one day with neck and back injuries. It turned out he blew out a couple of discs in his back, which caused him to miss the '06 as well as the 2007 seasons.
Peel doesn't believe he has a fragile body, saying, "It's just bad luck. You've got to fight on and take it one day at a time. This is the healthiest I've ever been since I've been at Utah,"
When asked what his strengths are as a receiver, Peel prefers not to talk much about himself.
"I wouldn't say I have one specific trait," he said. "I'm just trying to do as much as I can in every aspect as a receiver."
Ludwig knows what makes Peel an effective receiver.
"He's really fast and he can catch the heck out of the ball," Ludwig said. "He caught that deep ball on Sean Smith in the scrimmage the other day and you don't see that happen very often on Sean Smith."
Even though he's listed as senior, Peel hopes to get another year after appealing to the NCAA. After all, if former teammate Darryl Poston could get seven years to play because of injuries, then Peel ought to get another year.
"Technically I'm a senior, but I'm going to press for a medical (redshirt) because of all the time I've been out," he said. "It's looking pretty positive I'll get another year back after this."First, Peel would just love to get through this year without any more medical issues and be an integral part of the Utah offense.
Utah camp central
First down: The Utes practiced once Tuesday. They'll hold their final scrimmage of camp this morning and begin Michigan preparations in a light practice this afternoon.
Head-turner: Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was pleased with the entire offense. He said the Utes executed well and showed a big improvement over the last few days.Injury report: The Pit is beginning to clear out. Defensive tackle Aaron Tonga (MCL strain) and running back Darrell Mack (irritated Achilles), who was held out for precautionary reasons, did not practice.
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