Michigan Football: Jabrill Peppers now at Linebacker


Jabrill Peppers has made the move from safety to SAM linebacker in Michigan’s new defensive scheme under defensive coordinator Don Brown.

When Don Brown was hired as Michigan’s new defensive coordinator, he said he was bringing a new defensive scheme with him. Brown has run a variety of different defensive schemes in his 34 years of coaching, so many speculated what he would do at Michigan. At this weeks spring practice we got the answer.

Last year Michigan ran a hybrid system that featured a base 3-3-5 look (3 lineman, 3 linebackers, 5 defensive backs). The strength of the team was up front in the defensive lineman, which returns everyone but Willie Henry. Jabrill Peppers role was as a defensive back (listed as a safety) who was asked to play multiple roles in the secondary, occasionally moving up to the linebacker level.

The weakness last year were the linebackers, which featured a glaring lack of speed. With four graduating linebackers leaving the program this looks to be the most unsettled part of the defense.

So how do you fix the holes at the linebacker level? Here are the two main things that appear to be Don Brown’s plan.

First, Michigan is switching its base defense to a 4-3-3. Adding a consistent fourth defensive lineman will increase the presence of an already elite unit. A fourth lineman will allow the linebackers to move more freely behind them.

Second, Jabrill Peppers will move from safety to the SAM (strong-side) linebacker role. This move puts the fastest and most athletic player on defense closer to the line of scrimmage. Putting Peppers in the box, takes the speed of the defense to a new level. This also means you are only replacing two starting linebackers instead of three.

Peppers role as a sam linebacker won’t be a traditional one. While Peppers labeled role will be SAM linebacker, Don Brown plans on using him in a role that other teams call the “star” linebacker. A star linebacker is a player that is expected to roam from sideline to sideline covering the entire field. Depending on the play call, they are asked to stop the run, cover the slot receiver, and they will blitz (a lot).

So, basically its everything Peppers did last year but closer to the ball. This plan has a lot of appeal. But what if offenses try to adjust and put a bigger player out there to block him? Peppers is a rare athlete that is too quick and too strong for most big bodies. Plus, most teams will need their big men to stay in and block Michigan’s front four.

This new defensive design will put more speed and athleticism up front and will put Peppers in a better position to make even more impact plays. This should be fun to watch.

More from Detroit Jock City

As Mlive’s Nick Baumgardner pointed out in a recent article, if you want to compare Peppers new role with another player, look at how Duke used Jeremy Cash. Draft breakdown has a page of videos highlighting Cash, which you can view here. Another player’s role, who I think Peppers game will compare to is, Ohio State’s Darron Lee, you can view his video’s here.