The redshirt freshman is No. 2 at one wide receiver spot, behind Matt VandeBerg. Chad Leistikow | Hawkcentral.com
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Jay Scheel's climb back to full health after knee surgery more than a year ago has been slow. And he's not to the top yet.
Asked if he was 100 percent at Iowa football media day, Scheel replied, "It's getting there. It's still a long process, but it's good."
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound redshirt freshman is climbing anyway. He's up to No. 2 on the depth chart at one of the two wide receiver positions, behind junior Matt VandeBerg. With the other spots occupied by seniors (Tevaun Smith and Jacob Hillyer), the former four-star recruit out of Union High School of LaPorte City, there's an opportunity ahead of Scheel — both this year and beyond.
The move to second string (where he replaced senior Andrew Stone after spring ball), Scheel said, was encouraging but wasn't worth reading into.
"Fall camp, you have to prove yourself. Depending on how you play in fall camp (determines) if you're going to play in the season," Scheel said. "The depth chart in the preseason doesn't mean a whole lot."
Scheel was a dazzling high school star, leading Union to the state championship as a sophomore quarterback. His performance in the semifinals against ADM of Adel helped turn him into the talk of the Iowa football office, according to coach Kirk Ferentz.
But knee surgery last April eliminated his chance for an instant impact on the program. Strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle has been a motivator in his recovery — not just physically.
Iowa receivers coach Bobby Kennedy talks about difficulty of processing information. Chad Leistikow
Scheel's knee issues started in high school, when he struggled with a patella tendon injuries and a bone chip.
"It was tough. He pushed me," Scheel said of Doyle. "You have to push yourself. There's a lot of mental side to it."
Outsiders got their first glimpse of Scheel in the spring, and it was encouraging. He had two catches for 23 yards in the spring game. Then, the depth-chart move.
"Last year at this time he was still in shorts, rehabbing, working with the trainers, stuff like that," Iowa receivers coach Bobby Kennedy said. "I was pleased with him last spring. He's shown significant progress. Hopefully Jay Scheel will emerge this year."