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.]
Position: Tight End
Ht/Wt: 6'6" / 243 lbs.
Location: Avon Old Farms School (worth noting the mascot is the Winged Beaver) – Avon, CT
Offers: Georgia, Texas Tech, Indiana, NC State, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Syracuse, Temple, Ohio State
Ranking: ★★★ .8800 (247 Composite)
When it comes to identifying potential Michigan targets I tend to pay attention to who else is paying attention to a prospect. Depending on position if the Ohio States, Wisconsins, Penn States, Michigan States, and Notre Dames of the world are interested, I’d expect Michigan to show a little bit of interest at some point as well.
2015 TE Chris Clark was offered by the Buckeyes last week and I immediately reached out to him to see if the Michigan coaches have contacted him or if he had any interest in the Wolverines. To my surprise his interest level in Michigan was extremely high, despite it not being mutual from the coaches. In the 2015 class at the tight end spot Michigan figures to be in pretty good shape for Tyrone Wheatley Jr., but backup plans are always necessary.
Clark passes the eyeball test for a Big Ten tight end at 6’6” and 243 lbs. making him as big as several NFL tight ends already, let alone college starters. Clark was very open and insightful when it came to his interests and plans regarding his recruitment.
On film Clark’s size and strength are apparent but so is his willingness and ability to block, which isn’t always what you see out of high school tight ends. Clark seemed to have a good understanding of his strengths as well as what could be improved upon before and during college.
I believe my strengths are my hands and my ability to get yards after the catch. I am also pretty strong and can get off press coverage and block really well. I would definitely like to work on perfecting my route running. My coaches continue to tell me that route running in college will give me an advantage.
Clark has been compared to Tyler Eifert when he was coming out of high school and that doesn’t appear to be a stretch at all. Clark is actually about the same size that Eifert is right now as a Cincinnati Bengal.
With his offer list growing Clark has decided to take a level-headed approach to choosing a leader or a favorite, which he doesn’t have right now. He did admit to growing up a Boston College fan for pretty obvious reasons.
I loved BC growing up because my dad went there but that won’t have an impact on where I go.
Michigan hasn’t reached out to Clark at this time but he says Michigan is a school he’s always paid attention to when I asked him about the Wolverines.
Of course I’m interested, I mean it’s Michigan! Football is a lifeline for the school and I really like how passionate the fans are. The history of the program is just incredible and seeing The Big House on TV is awesome. Walking out onto that field, man, I bet there is no better feeling. I definitely plan on reaching out to the coaching staff at some point.
Right now he said that Michigan is definitely high up on his least despite not holding an offer. For what it’s worth he had the same sentiment about the Buckeyes who did just offer him.
Clark has started to make a mental checklist of what he needs out of a school and his priorities seem to be in solid order.
My relationship with the coaches is going to be big. Also if they utilize the tight end in the offense. I want to like the campus and the school in general. I have to be able to get a great education and just need to have the feeling that I could call that place home for four years. God forbid I got injured, it has to be a place where I would be happy if I wasn't playing football. My goal is to make it to the NFL but a backup plan would probably be something in the sports world so a school that can help with that is going to be important.
To go along with balanced priorities Clark also prides himself on his work ethic and plans to keep working until he is the best tight end in the country. He calls himself the most competitive person he knows and wants to win at everything he does.
Clark wants to make his decision sometime before his summer camp starts in mid-August so he can just focus on his senior season. That being said the Wolverines may or may not factor in since no offer has been extended at this time. Scholarships are tight for the 2015 class but right now all of the eggs are in the Wheatley Jr. basket when it comes to tight end recruiting. The way Clark talked about Michigan it surprises me that a relationship has not been formed yet especially since he’s not close to being an under-the-radar prospect. He did say he plans on contacting the Michigan coaches and when he does I’ll get another update from him.
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.]
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.]
Jabrill Peppers Is Fast, Part Whatever
Oh, just Jabrill Peppers fielding a kickoff at the 0:21 mark, hauling down the far sideline—I like that sideline—and reaching the end zone at the 0:32 mark despite high-stepping the final few yards. 96 yards. 11 seconds. In full pads.
He's okay, I guess.
This weekend marks the time when just about every 2014 commit will take their official visit to Ann Arbor, including Peppers, who'll presumably have a nice chat with Brady Hoke about taking other visits—if he hasn't already been talked out of them by the coaches and his family, who've reportedly expressed their desire for Peppers to stick to his commitment.
According to multiple outlets, one uncommitted 2014 prospect will also take his official this weekend: three-star TX RB Vic Enwere, a current Cal commit. Enwere committed to Cal without ever visiting Berkeley—he's slated to visit there in January, and otherwise has no officials set up, so this is looks to be a two-team battle that could go either way. Enwere is now the only feasible target at running back to hold an offer, as CO ATH Kalen Ballage made a surprise commitment to Arizona State this week; he'd been expected to pledge to either Boise State or Michigan State.
The other visitor to keep an eye on is 2015 commit Shaun Crawford, who's recently stated an interest in visiting Ohio State. He's maintained all along that he's "100% committed" to Michigan, so hopefully a quick discussion about Hoke's job security—like Peppers, Crawford cited rumors about a potential coaching change as reason to look around—will dispel any desire to visit the Buckeyes.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell, Tim Settle, a couple of four-star 2015 tackles, and more.]