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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rutgers' Ruhann Peele: 'It's a natural attitude'

Ruhann Peele was recruited lightly out of Linden, and he's trying to gain a foothold in 2013 as a slot receiver. He says he just started being able to read defenses as a redshirt freshman. (Tyler Barto) 

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: Tyler_Barto

PISCATAWAY — The education of Ruhann Peele begins and ends with seven 150-by-six-foot holding patterns.

Peele, who redshirted in 2012, yearned to be removed from the sideline during Rutgers' seven road trips, all of which he was a part. The 6-foot-1 Linden native was desperate to prove himself, but seven times he came and went, all without leaving the narrow sideline waiting area.

The result: a renewed sense of purpose. 

Through nearly two weeks of training camp, Peele has inched his way into consistent first-team reps. He sets up defenders on double moves wrought with as much savvy as skill.

He's done so while admitting he only learned how to read a defense this year.

"It feels good to really understand football ... and know why I run the routes and do the things while I'm doing it," Peele said Wednesday.

Peele, Rutgers' first commit in the class of 2012, now speaks with a hint of experience about the slot receiver niche he's established this summer. 

MORE: Jamal Merrell talks marriage, new pass rush role

He reacts to a two-high safety look and adjusts his route. He knows a one-high safety look shrinks the middle of the field. And he can tell when a blitz package is coming, forcing him to cut off his route.

"The slot, most of the routes are like based off how the defense plays," Peele said. "I really have more options to run my routes more than any other position. My position, sometimes I have routes just to open the window up for the 'X'. Sometimes if he goes with the 'X', then I know I'm going to get there because the ball's wide open."

RELATED: Lorenzo Waters explains X, Y, Z receivers

If Peele sounds more cerebral, he still shows traces of aggression.

It manifests sometimes in makeshift locker-room games (see below) with teammates Carlton Agudosi and Leonte Carroo, lasting for hours. 

(Courtesy of @Hungry_Humble22, Carlton Agudosi's Twitter account)

During others, it has been less flattering.

Head coach Kyle Flood reprimanded cornerback Gareef Glashen last week after he and Peele got into an altercation after a play. Glashen was kept out the rest of practice. Peele hasn't been shy about mixing it up with other defensive players, either.

“Ruhann has a little moxie to him," Flood said Tuesday, "there’s no doubt."

Part of it, he says, stems from trying to prepare teammates for adversity during games. Most times it comes from the slight Peele believes colleges held against him in Linden.

"Coming out of high school, three-star (ranking), nobody really knew," Peele said. "I knew I was one of the best around anywhere at the receiver position. I'm a real competitor. I just feel like if there's a DB ahead of me, he can't stop me."

RELATED: Ruhann Peele talks film study, Jamal Merrell and more

At a 2011 Rivals showcase in Oakland, Peele earned top receiver accolades on the same turf field as Agudosi and a dozen other wideouts. The then-junior only held one offer: Rutgers. He received from a number of schools, including one from then-Illinois coach Ron Zook, Peele said, but they never materialized.

He appeared eager to add they were hand-written.

"The most important thing to me," Peele said Wednesday, "is learning and soaking in everything the coaches and older guys tell me."

Agudosi is out with a hamstring injury. Top wide receiver Brandon Coleman is still rehabbing from offseason knee surgery. If Peele's role has been about his improvement, it's been equally because of necessity.

So, too, has Peele's maturation on the field. 

"I don't know. It's a natural attitude," Peele said. "I always was a competitor. Everything I do, I just do it hard."

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