University of Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers, the 5-star athlete from Paramus Catholic in New Jersey, was a unanimous top-5 prospect in the class of 2014, but he failed to deliver on his hype. Plagued by a leg injury, Peppers only played in three of his his first four collegiate games and garnered 8 tackles playing cornerback for the Wolverines. He sat out the final eight games of the season in 2014 so that he could apply for a medical hardship waiver. The staff of then-head coach Brady Hoke did not want the star athlete to play at anything less than 100 percent, and they knew he couldn’t play more than 3 games if he was going to be granted the waiver. Coming off a red-shirt year, Peppers knows this season will be much different.
For one, Hoke has been replaced by former San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. Another huge reason this season will be completely different is his position change; Peppers will be moved to safety in 2015. Despite having played nearly every skill position in high school, Peppers has little in-game experience playing safety. He is, however, a supremely talented athlete and with plenty of time to learn the new position during spring ball and fall camp, expect him to be ready to go.
Peppers is a playmaker, and his senior highlight film proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can play with the best players in the country. Sideline to sideline, Peppers is constantly making thunderous hits and big plays. For that reason, many speculated that Peppers would jump ship and leave Michigan after their woeful 2014 season. The man that recruited him had been canned and he was one of the best players in the country. He could’ve played wherever he wanted. He didn’t waver though, and I think that says a lot about the player Peppers will be on the field and also the man he will be off the field. He showed that he can power through adversity, and that’s the kind of man Michigan fans, players and coaches are looking for. In the fourth quarter when your defense needs a stop, you need a guy like Peppers.
Aside from his ability to face adversity, his ability to make crucial plays will be of great benefit to the Wolverines. He will be ready to be an impact player on a defense in desperate need of one. Michigan forced a total of 10 turnovers last year, good for second-to-last in all of the FBS. If the Wolverines are going to make any noise in terms of winning the Big Ten, or even being in the race, that number will need to be drastically improved.
My bold prediction for the 2015 season is that Peppers will be a first-team All-B1G safety and solidify himself as one of the top defensive backs in the nation. He has all the tools and certainly has the athleticism to do so, but his game experience, or rather lack thereof, and his nagging leg injuries are some cause for concern. As of now though, he seems to be 100 percent healthy as evidenced by his back flipping at practice in late February. Peppers has a lot to prove in 2015, but I believe he will live up to the hype.