Injuries robbed Wykie Freeman of all but four games last season, which raised questions about his durability.
But the Utah junior cornerback looked fresh as he jogged off the practice field Monday after the first workout of fall camp. He had the look of a man who believes himself perfectly capable of making a run for a starting spot in the defensive backfield.
"Everyone has something to prove," Freeman said. "I just have to go out there and do my best each day of practice. At the end of the day, if I've done that, then I'm good with that."
A torn meniscus in his knee and subsequent surgery forced Freeman to the sidelines not even midway through his sophomore season. He was contributing at the time, including a season-high four tackles against Arizona State. The frustration mounted as Freeman wasn't able to participate in the spring due to rehabilitation.
But football is a sport that heavily emphasizes speed. And as a cornerback, Freeman's 4.3-second 40-yard dash time makes him the fastest returning Ute.
"He's got good feet and timing," Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake said. "He's someone who can definitely help us. He's working hard, and he's battling every day."
Sitake said the cornerback position is open. He also said that redshirt freshman Reggie Porter had a good practice Monday. With little experience returning and some shuffling, the position represents one of the most unsettled on either side of the ball.
Still, Sitake said the corners are the deepest group he's had at the position since he's been with the Utes. Freeman's return contributes to that depth.
"I think we want to prove that we're going to be a force as a group," Freeman said. "I think we're going to come out every day and perform well. We have the talent, we just have to show it."
• Missed most of '12 season with a knee injury.
• Is battling for a starting job at cornerback.
• Runs 4.35 40-yard dash.