Not since Charles Woodson won the Heisman trophy in 1997 has Michigan fielded a player with the talent and versatility of Jabrill Peppers.
Including the win over Rutgers last Saturday (Nov. 7) , Peppers has produced some very impressive stats this season.
Defensively, Peppers has 32 total tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss and seven passes broken up. On special teams, he’s returned a kickoff 49 yards and a punt 41. Over on offense, he’s run for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass, rushing for 24 yards on six carries in addition to three catches for 38 yards.
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All of which might explain his pair of Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards, given to Peppers after the Northwestern and Minnesota victories.
Predominantly Michigan’s starting safety, Peppers plays on both sides of the ball, including special teams. Recruited as the nation’s top cornerback, the Wolverines knew they were getting something special.
Star in New Jersey
Peppers played his 2012-13 seasons at Paramus (NJ) Catholic HS for then-coach Rick Partridge—who has since moved to Ann Arbor to work as Jim Harbaugh‘s Director of Recruiting. After finishing high school, Peppers joined Brady Hoke at Michigan but managed just a handle of snaps before injury cut short his freshman season.
By the time fall camp arrived, Peppers was ready for anything Harbaugh might throw his way. “I just want to do what is best for the team,” Peppers told freep.com, “What will help the team.”
The additional reps on offense not only add another playmaker, it helps broaden the playbook. No one has said the Michigan’s offense is the least bit flamboyant. Defenses have to account for Peppers. Even when he’s used as a decoy, they now must account for him.
Peppers a help to Rudock
Quarterback Jake Rudock obviously enjoys the additional weapon.
“He’s (Peppers) a special athlete, Rudock said after the Rutgers win. “He’s a special football player. He’s not only an athlete, he understands the game. He understands where to run with the ball when he has it in his hands and how to avoid people, too. He’s just a good football player. Obviously we like to utilize that on offense.”
He’s really good
Harbaugh added,” I knew he was good, but he’s really good. He’s really good. That play…(his touchdown run v. Rutgers) I thought there was not another rung to go on the ladder. There is. He found another rung to go even higher. I told him that. I says, ‘Man, you’re really good.’”
Peppers may be a future NFL star, but there’s one title he doesn’t have. That’s the “fastest on the team,” designation. WR Jehu Chesson has claimed that prize.
The comparisons to Woodson are uncanny. While Peppers is just getting started, Woodson led the Wolverines to the Big Ten and co-National titles in 1997. First he helped secure Michigan’s 23-7 win over the Spartans with a pair of interceptions, then added a 78-yard punt return for a TD, an end-zone interception and a 37-yard catch to beat the Buckeyes and send Michigan to the Rose Bowl undefeated.
U-M held off Washington State 21-16 as Woodson picked off another pass.
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Woodson, who’s played 18 years in the NFL, won the 1997-98 Heisman Trophy over Tennessee Volunteer Peyton Manning who, incidentally, is still paying in the NFL himself. Woodson, who was the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman, was an 8x Pro Bowl selection, a 4x First Team All-Pro and a winning participant in Super Bowl XLV.
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