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Friday, September 13, 2013

Ruhann Peele emerges as reliable target for Rutgers in early weeks

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

Ruhann Peele is two games in to his first college season. He has proven a quick study.

Part 1

Ruhann Peele lined up in the slot, ran a quick slant pattern and suddenly found himself inside the end zone. The redshirt freshman's first career touchdown came as quick as the 8-yard route Peele drew up.

"Actually when I heard the play in the huddle, I was like, 'Alright, this has got to come to me.' I was really focusing on catching the ball," he said last Saturday inside Rutgers' locker room. "When I actually caught it, it just felt good. At first you're happy, you're excited with your teammates. But then you don't know how to react."

Peele, who first started playing football seriously as a freshman at Linden High School, now has six catches for 56 yards in two games. He is Rutgers' unquestioned slot receiver, outmaneuvering strongside linebackers and opening space in the middle of the field.

Ruhann Peele speaks Sept. 7 after scoring his first career touchdown. (Tyler Barto)

It is quite an ascent, considering he only held one offer when he committed to Rutgers as a high school senior.

“He’s a very nifty route runner and very difficult to tackle, excellent hands," head coach Kyle Flood said. "Guys who play in the slot have to play in a lot of traffic. So you need to have somebody who has tremendous ball skills in the football world, and he has those."

Peele's mom, Diane Rollins, has noticed. 

Rollins made the short trip from a home in Piscataway — she also has a home with Peele's immediately family in Linden — to see Peele's first home game against Norfolk State. She even came to each home game a year ago, when Peele redshirted.

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"Always there, no matter what. Always on time," Peele said. "She's always been there. She's a huge supporter ... through the ups and downs."

["He's a very nifty route runner and very difficult to tackle, excellent hands." — Kyle Flood]

In 2013, Peele has experienced mostly positives.

He has emerged as a red-zone target, adding a Week 1 target to his score against Norfolk State. He blocked for Rutgers' first score of the season, Janarion Grant's 100-yard kickoff return Aug. 29 at Fresno State.

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He appeared again on kickoff return in Week 2 along with Rutgers' punt block unit. He did not line up at flyer on punt team like he did at Fresno State.

"Either way they rotate it, you just have to be ready when your name is called and do what you have to do."

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