Jabrill Peppers is highly regarded as one of the most talented prospects that the Michigan football program has ever gotten its hands on. Following a 2013 season in which Murphy’s law seemed to take effect for the Wolverines, many fans still have hope that Brady Hoke and staff can right the ship and turn Michigan into a perennial Big Ten power.
Peppers is the face of the hope and optimism that comes with the anticipation of the 2014 season, but we need to ease up on comparisons and expectations for him in year one. Follow me through the jump as I get on my soapbox and tell you why the Wolverines would benefit from not rushing him into action.
Peppers was one of the top prospects in the entire 2014 recruiting class. He truly can do it all. He can play corner. He can play safety. He can run with and catch the football. Hell, he could probably line up in a three-point stance if the coaches wanted him to. He is a fantastic, versatile talent that many of us have never seen at Michigan.
With all of that being said, comparing him to Charles Woodson and saying he should get the number-two jersey (which will actually be worn by Blake Countess this season) is premature, and quite frankly, irresponsible.
What Peppers was able to do on the field in high school is nothing short of astonishing. His tape backs that up. Being able to watch and break down his film has been so much fun to do because he has the ability to do so many things out there.
As soon as you hit campus, where the remaining members of Michigan’s 2014 class did this weekend, stars, recruiting rankings and accolades go out the window. These guys are officially individual pieces in a much larger puzzle. It is the coaching staff’s job to figure out where to make those pieces fit and how they can do it.
Peppers is a hell of a piece to have in your puzzle, but they would be wise to let him ease into his role with the Wolverines and create his own path, as should we. Hanging your hat on a true freshman in a make-or-break season may not be the best way to approach things.
I guess what I am trying to say here is that nothing should be handed to Peppers, and it won’t be. Going into camp, Michigan wants to use him as a kick/punt returner and have in play in nickel and dime packages. This is where he will start in camp, so let’s not rush to call him a bust because he doesn’t hop over Countess or Raymon Taylor, two pretty good players in their own right, on the depth chart right away.
If Peppers is to make a big impact on the field this season, it will be because the work he puts in during the week will be too much to keep him off the field. He has the ability to do this, but he will have to work for it.
There are guys that can pay immediate dividends for a program in every recruiting class, but let’s remember what recruiting really is: an investment in the future of a program. The 2014 recruiting class isn’t one that will mean success in 2014. It’s an investment in Michigan’s future for success in 2015, 2016, 2017 and beyond.
Player development isn’t linear, just like there are no two snowflakes alike. Some are good players now. Some of those good players may not make an impact. Some of their lower-rated players may end up being stars. You just never know in recruiting.
So let’s stop referring to Peppers as “the next Charles Woodson.” That’s a lofty expectation to put on any player, let alone an 18 year old kid stepping foot on a college campus for the first time.
And for those still firmly in the “he deserves Woodson’s number” camp, that’s too bad for you. He has done nothing for the Wolverines to this point to earn that. He is just days removed from officially being on campus.
Jabrill Peppers will wear the number five this year, his high school number. A number that he will have the chance to make famous on his own in time at the University of Michigan.
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