I Have To Praise You Like I Should
High School All-American week is officially over. Jabrill Peppers unofficially won the week. Just ask ESPN's Tom Luginbill, who wrote this in response to a question about the most impressive Under Armour practice performer [emphasis mine]:
[Peppers] is more than capable of playing both ways if needed, but as far as cover corners go, he is a more explosive version of Dee Milliner, and we love that he welcomes contact too. He is mature and knows that there are high expectations for him to perform.
Or ask his Team Nitro coach, former NFL head coach and defensive back Herm Edwards—and his friend, some guy named Deion:
"It’s not even close. He’s the best [UA All-American defensive back] I’ve coached. I called Deion [Sanders] over and said look at that guy, and Deion saw the same thing," Edwards said. "[Robert] Nkemdiche was really good last year, he was a big guy who could run and [Peppers] is comparable to that as far as skill level at the position he’s playing. I played that position and coached that position for a long time and he’s a special talent."
Or ask Scout, which named Peppers the top practice performer of the week on either team while noting that this year's crop of defensive backs was particularly strong.
Rivals stands as the least bullish outlet on Peppers after the UA game, and all they did was name him Sunday's #3 performer, Monday's #1 performer, and Tuesday's #5 performer, and the actual game's #9 performer for Team Nitro before giving him the third spot overall for Team Nitro on the week behind Da'Shawn Hand and Ermon Lane ($):
Playing in his first national-level event, Peppers was surrounded by intrigue from the moment he arrived in Florida. As it turned out, it didn't take him long to live up to his billing. Peppers, the No. 2 overall prospect in his class, was dominant in every practice and was as aggressive and spirited as any player on the field. He struggled a bit in Thursday's game but didn't allow a big play all week. Peppers also blocked a field goal that was ultimately negated because of an all-star-game specific rule.
In addition to the negated blocked field goal (above)—illegal because rushers on kicks weren't allowed to go inside their man in the UA Game, which... okay—Peppers had a couple passes defended, returned two kickoffs for 65 yards (one a 41-yard burst to midfield), and took a few snaps as a wildcat quarterback, though he couldn't break anything big offensively in a pretty ugly game overall, as high school all-star games tend to be.
Interestingly, Scout omitted both Hand and Lane from their top ten overall list, with neither cracking the top two of their respective position groups. It's safe to say Peppers made a strong argument that he deserves consideration for the top overall spot in the 2014 class.
[Hit THE JUMP for a whole lot of content from the All-American games, Michigan's latest 2014 offer, an update on George Campbell, a potential second quarterback in the '14 class, and more.]
NITRO EXPLOSION NEON HIGHLIGHT CHROMETACULAR
This week marks the start of high school All-American bowl practices, which are already under way and feature eight Michigan commits: Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Michael Ferns, Drake Harris, Bryan Mone, Jabrill Peppers, Wilton Speight, Jared Wangler (Under Armour, all on Team Nitro), and Mason Cole (Army, Team East). At the start of day two, we've already had some Michigan-on-Michigan crime:
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2013
And subsequent trash talk:
Peppers screamed, "That's all day next year, Wilt" after his interception.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2013
The No. 2 player in the Rivals100 Presented by Under-Armour had never participated in a national-level event until now, so there was some intrigue surrounding his arrival in Florida.
So far, so good. Peppers was one of the top performers on Day 1. He was a nightmare in coverage and was beaten only once during one-on-one reps. He showed the speed to stay with smaller wide receivers and the strength to press larger ones. Peppers was aggressive without gambling and stood out like the country's No. 2 player should.
And today he received some lofty praise from former NFL head coach and standout defensive back Herm Edwards, especially when considering the spectacular performance of current Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves in the same game last year:
Herm Edwards told me in his three years coaching in the #UAALLAMERICA game, Jabrill Peppers is the best DB he's seen.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2013
There will be much more coverage of both All-American games in the next two roundups; the UA game—which may be difficult to watch without protective eyewear—kicks off on Thursday at 4 pm on ESPN, while the Army game is set for Saturday at 1 pm on NBC. Maize n Brew has an informative primer for both games, and MGoUser MJ14 posted a nice roundup of first-day practice reactions from the UA game.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest 2015 offer, updates on Malik McDowell, Cassius Peat, and Keisean Lucier-South, and more.]
In just about two weeks the Wolverine football family will grow by seven members. Bryan Mone, Michael Ferns, Mason Cole, Freddy Canteen, Brandon Watson, Wilton Speight, and Drake Harris will arrive in Ann Arbor on January 5th. As all seven young men prepare for the next chapter of their academic and athletic lives the winds of change have them anxious and excited.
Bryan Mone feels a little like the lost member of this recruiting class for the simple fact that he hasn’t been around as much as the others due to living in Utah. Mone also isn’t much for the spotlight and doesn’t do a lot of interviews or partake in social media like a lot of the other commits. Mone is set up to room with Scott Sypniewski a long-snapper already on the roster. At this point in time Mone is just ready to get on campus and do anything he needs to do to get on the field, even though he doesn’t know exactly what that is yet. Mone told me he’d like to wear #90, which should be possible as it’s currently not in use.
After flipping from Michigan State, Drake Harris has become one of the more popular commits in the 2014 class simply because of his seemingly unlimited potential at wide receiver. At 6’4” he has the kind of speed and size that can blow the top off of a defense, something that has been missing a bit in recent years. Harris missed most of his senior season with an injury so his level of anxiousness may be even more elevated than the rest. Harris will room with fellow incoming early enrollee Wilton Speight where to two hope to grow their chemistry. Harris says he hopes to do everything he can to earn the #1 jersey but believes he will start off in the #4.
Speaking of Wilton Speight, he told me he is coming to Ann Arbor with a chip on his shoulder. As a 3-star recruit he comes in a class behind Michigan native and golden boy, 5-star Shane Morris. That alone is enough to motivate him and he’s been working out non-stop and eating right trying to prepare anyway he can before starting a more regimented college workout and diet plan. He plans to hit the ground running with his offseason conditioning and lifting program as soon as he arrives. Look for Speight to rock the #19 in Ann Arbor just like he did in high school.
High school teammates Brandon Watson and Freddy Canteen were unsure of who their roommates would be, but both assumed it would be each other. Watson will arrive on campus at 6’1” and 190 lbs. which is bigger than I thought he was. He confirmed that he has definitely grown since any of his recruiting profiles were last updated. Watson plans to sport the #4 which will be available with the departure of Cam Gordon. Canteen didn’t have much to say but he did tell me that he was unsure of exactly what he will do as far as workouts, diet, and studying goes but he’s just ready to get to work.
Leaving the warmth and heading up north to the cold, Mason Cole can’t wait to get to Ann Arbor. The coaches haven’t told Cole what they want him to do as far as weight gain, working out, or what specific position he’ll play on the line, but he said simply, “It’s go time.” once he’s there. He just wants to get there and work out, get in shape, and study non-stop. Right now Cole is at 6’5” and 275 lbs. and he said he’d like to be at about 290 by the time fall camp rolls around.
Cole’s roommate, Michael Ferns was the only early enrollee I wasn’t able to talk to but I’d assume he’s very happy this day has almost arrived since he was the first commit of the class all the way back in August of 2012. If I do end up hearing from him I’ll add it in.
Just When You Thought It Was Safe...
Jabrill Peppers reaffirmed his commitment this week. So did Shaun Crawford. Michigan had successfully weathered the storm caused by their on-field woes. And then...
GEORGE CAMPBELL OUTTA NOWHERE.
According to multiple outlets, Campbell actually decided to decommit last week, but waited until this week to inform the coaches of his decision. Steve Lorenz relays the news that Florida, Florida State, and Clemson (ugh) are involved in Campbell's recruitment, and while Michigan isn't out of the picture, they're losing perhaps their biggest edge ($):
Yesterday, I tweeted out that Michigan was still in it for Campbell after his decommitment. I still believe this, but after doing some digging while on the road today, I'm not sure how high the Wolverines are on his list at this point. If you forced me to choose, I believe he ends up somewhere else. Where that is, I don't know. Mason Cole leaving for Michigan within the next two weeks is about the worst thing that could happen in this regard because their friendship was a big part of getting Campbell committed in the first place. Without Cole in his ear and Michigan being a ways away, the excitement about the Wolverines could fade over time.
The Wolverines will continue to pursue Campbell and in-state athlete Brian Cole as their top priorities for receiver in the 2015 class; after being in great shape for both just a few months ago, however, there's a distinct possibility that both end up elsewhere—there's a very good chance Campbell stays in the South, while Cole may be a Michigan State lean and also has interest in Ohio State. Michigan's very strong group of 2014 receivers mitigates some of the hurt from this, but there's no sugarcoating the loss of one of the nation's top prospects, especially when it seems directly tied to uncertainty (real or perceived) regarding the program.
It might not end with Campbell, either. Shortly after that decommitent went public, fellow 2015 blue chip commit Damien Harris tweeted "Here comes the tough decision.." which, well, obviously raised some red flags given the timing. That could very well be nothing, however, as Harris—unlike Campbell, a childhood fan of Florida—grew up rooting for Michigan; he also subsequently retweeted fellow recruit Justin Hilliard questioning why anyone would commit to a school without "110%" certainty, as well as today's news about Michigan scheduling the game against Florida in Dallas in 2017, when he'd be a junior. Since Harris' first tweet has garnered a lot of attention, I figured I'd add some context—for now, at least, it seems early to panic.
This entire sports year post-Final Four can still die in a fire, though.
[Hit THE JUMP for updated Scout rankings, the latest on Vic Enwere and Josh Rosen, and more.]
This past weekend almost every member of the 2014 recruiting class was in Ann Arbor to bond, catch a basketball game, and recruit a little bit themselves. Jabrill Peppers headlined the group as well as 2015 committed defensive back Shaun Crawford, mostly because there had been some rumors that they may both be interested in visiting elsewhere. Ace, with the help of others, all but squashed those rumors. Perhaps the most intriguing prospect among the commits was running back Vic Enwere, the Texas native who is currently committed to California.
Enwere is a 6’1”, 215 lb. bruiser of a running back with good speed, strong leg-drive, and phenomenal balance. He grades out as a 3-star prospect according to the 247 Composite and his offer list matches with some of the more notable schools being Kansas State, Michigan State, Missouri and obviously California and Michigan. I caught up with Vic to see how his visit went and where exactly the Wolverines stand for him after his first trip to Ann Arbor.
After talking to Vic a few times prior to his visit I’ve already determined that he isn’t the most excitable kid, keeps his responses short and sweet, and also doesn’t sugar coat anything. He said his visit to Michigan was “pretty good” and that he really enjoyed hanging out with the other recruits. As we know by now the future members of Team 135 are a very close knit bunch and Enwere said that he didn’t feel like he was an uncommitted guy while he was hanging out with everyone. “I felt no different than anyone else. They treated me the same. They are a good group of guys.” He then admitted that he definitely felt like he could be part of that group.
The coaches did their homework and paired Enwere up with Amara Darboh as his player-host due in part to both young men being of African descent. He said that Darboh was really cool and made the stay extremely comfortable for him.
Now that he is back home and waiting to take his official visit to Cal in January he says that his commitment is still the same, a soft verbal to the Golden Bears. I asked him if either team had an edge right now and he said, “I wouldn’t say it’s 50/50 yet. It all depends on how my visit to Cal goes. Cal still has the edge right now.” Once that visit is complete he will evaluate all of his options and make his final decision near National Signing Day.
My Crystal Ball pick right now is for Enwere to flip to Michigan but honestly after talking to him tonight I’m not so sure. He says Cal still has the edge, remains committed (albeit softly) even though he hasn’t taken a visit to Berkeley yet. He will take that visit in January and then sign his letter of intent while it’s still fresh in his mind. It will be very interesting to see how aggressively the Michigan coaches pursue him and what effect that has on his commitment. At this point it would be an impressive job if they can get him to flip.
Yes, Another 'Jabrill Peppers Is Staying' Header
Michigan's biggest official visit weekend, featuring nearly all of the 2014 commits plus running back target Vic Enwere, is now in the books, and it appears we can close the "Jabrill Peppers scares the bejeezus out of everybody" chapter. Peppers heard chants of his name at Crisler while cheering on the hoops squad, then tweeted out affirmation that he'll be in Ann Arbor next fall:
Ann Arbor it's been real, thanks for all the love, truly a memorable weekend! Team135 coming in with big plans! #GoBlizzyBlue
— Breezy (@JabrillPeppers) December 15, 2013
“Jabrill said he is 100 percent solid. He and I had a conversation away from the rest of the group on Saturday,” [Wilton] Speight said. “He said all he was looking to do was have fun on a couple visits, but that he is not interested in playing anywhere besides Michigan.”
Speight also said that 2015 commit Shaun Crawford, who was also on campus, is in the same boat as Peppers and "isn't going anywhere"—Crawford had recently mentioned interest in visiting Ohio State, though he'd maintained throughout that he was 100% committed to Michigan.
[UPDATE: As I hit publish, TomVH drops an article in which Crawford reaffirms his Michigan pledge, saying "the only trip I’ll be making to Columbus is for the Columbus Touchdown banquet." Huzzah.]
Multiple crises averted? It sure looks that way.
[Hit THE JUMP for Vic Enwere's visit reaction, the latest on a couple underclassmen prospects, and more.]