Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
I'm back from parts unknown—okay, Phoenix—with definitive proof that TomVH, not myself, is the recruiting analyst with the vacation-commitment curse (or gift, depending on your perspective). It's been mostly quiet on the recruiting front for the past week, save for Michigan finally pinning down a big-time visit.
Roll Out The
Red Blue Carpet
LA RB Leonard Fournette would like some extra barbeque with his barbeque, please:
New Orleans (LA) St. Augustine 2014 running back Leonard Fournette has been talking about visiting Michigan for some time now.
On Sunday, Wolverine247 insider Steve Lorenz confirmed that Fournette, the Nations top running back, will visit Michigan for an extended visit next week.
This year's BBQ at the Big House is a two-day event slated for Saturday/Sunday; Fournette will arrive in Ann Arbor on Thursday and spend the weekend — accompanied by both of his parents, per GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($). Fournette and his family remain adamant that the nation's top back doesn't have any leaders despite everyone expecting the Louisiana native to stay in the Southeast. Michigan is still a longshot and I will continue saying that until there's very concrete evidence to the contrary; Fournette staying for a long weekend with his parents, however, certainly indicates serious interest.
Fournette won't be the only 2014 running back in attendance at the BBQ; Michigan has long been among the top schools for New Jersey three-star Jonathan Hilliman, whose offer sheet far outstrips his current rankings — he'll be in town this weekend, but the Wolverines have ground to cover, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):
Hilliman's top five schools were, in no order, Ohio State, Alabama, Rutgers, Michigan and Vanderbilt but he already knows of one school that will make it to the next round.
"I'm going to cut down to three," he said. "Ohio State is still the leader. We're keeping in contact and it's easy for me to see how interested they are. I know Ohio State is going to make the cut and most likely Rutgers will also but I want to see how the visit goes. I'm not sure of which school will be that third one.
The BBQ gives Michigan a good chance to be that third school; Ohio State is obviously the team to beat. I'll have the full rundown on BBQ visitors on Thursday, once I've had a chance to settle back in and more recruits confirm whether or not they'll attend.
[Hit THE JUMP for news on early enrollees, the latest on Adoree' Jackson, and updates on several underclassmen, including Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and the two choice eliminations from his recruitment.]
Not A Good Look
At this point, anyone reading this post is pretty familiar with Da'Shawn Hand, the nation's top overall prospect. Michigan and Virginia Tech are presumed to lead the other three schools in his top five—Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina—while LSU and USC are on the outside looking in. Even further on the outside is Ohio State, where Hand reportedly had a poor visit experience the first time around, and despite a decent trip there last weekend—he swung by while in town for the Columbus NFTC—the Buckeyes won't be a factor in his recruitment going forward.
If you believe Eleven Warriors [ed-S: ...''s recruiting guy Jeremy Birmingham, not Ramzy] , this is because the Ohio State coaches suddenly decided they weren't very interested in the top player in the country—for reasons, you see—and here begins the fisking:
For some reason, my contention that Ohio State would not be aggressively attempting to get back into the Hand sweepstakes set off an internet wildfire with people.
This contention is reasonable; it's become clear that Ohio State is a longshot at best to get Hand, and the coaching staff could better spend their time targeting prospects with more interest in the Buckeyes. This would be a good place to stop, but...
As I have said a few times, it's a simple matter of personality. Ohio State wants people who are going to go 1000 miles per hour, every day, on and off the field. They want people who fight for each other, for their university and for their own improvement. They want people who are challenging themselves to improve every day and do so without the need to proclaim their own greatness for people to see, read, or hear. They want competitors and they want fighters.
...then there's this load of crap, as if the above doesn't fit what every football coach in America is trying to find in a recruit. Which leads us to the really stupid thing:
As far as Da'Shawn Hand? I've never said he was not a competitor, just that things with Ohio State and Hand did not see eye-to-eye from the start of his visit in November because he was not being treated any differently than any of the other recruits on hand, 90-minutes before kick-off of the biggest game of the year. The Buckeyes could not give Hand the attention they would have liked to, and the day was a bit too hectic for him to get "comfortable" at Ohio State.
This is a remarkably shitty thing to write about a high school kid without anything approaching first-hand evidence. The "I've never said..." hedging is just that, hedging, because discussing OSU's supposed lack of interest in reconnecting with Hand after everything in the previous paragraph is either a case of really unfortunate juxtaposition or the type of insinuation that unfairly impugns the character of a 17-year-old — one who, by all other accounts, is a kid of extremely high character.
The timing—when it's become blindingly obvious that Hand doesn't want to go to Ohio State—makes this come off as some seriously sour grapes. I'm sorry, Buckeye faithful, that Hand's reaction to being asked about Ohio State in the above video was this:
But, no, I'm not actually sorry. A high-profile player isn't interested in your school and may very well end up at a rival school. These things happen. Responding to this by suggesting that a player doesn't work hard enough, or is afraid to compete against the best, or isn't motivated enough to improve ... even if the implication is merely by context, that's a bad look. Nearly as bad as the one Hand gave when asked about Ohio State.
I think Eleven Warriors does a fantastic job, and that includes their recruiting coverage, but seeing this—and the wild speculation that it inevitably led to in such a forum—was disappointing. Perhaps, next time, just say that the kid isn't interested and move on.
[Hit THE JUMP for camp highlights of Ian Bunting, the latest on the Malik McDowell transfer rumors, and more.]
The Omen. Trey Burke had a crazy-good final high school season, and so did Derrick Walton. Then Trey Burke started putting videos of his summer workout regime on youtube. Derrick Walton's doing that too:
That step-back makes 'em say uhn. Michigan's going to be just fine at the point this year.
Reiterating. Brady Hoke was on Rich Eisen's podcast, wherein he reiterated Jake Ryan's timetable and said some other things:
On incoming freshman tailback Derrick Green being in the mix this fall: "Oh, he'll be in the mix, and Fitz (Toussaint) is healthy now. (Toussaint) is unbelievable how he works (coming off a broken leg). We'll find out (about Green). Like Michigan, you earn it, you earn it every day. You're evaluated every day. We're excited about Derrick, we're excited about that whole class."
Hoke says there won't be another Ten Year War, which lies. Also, only incompetent germans:
On some good things coming out of Ohio: "There's a guy named Schembechler who was from Ohio. We have Charles Woodson, Desmond Howard from Ohio, and the head football coach at Michigan is from Ohio."
We're #1, locally. Nebraska paper averages everyone's finish in Big Ten sports, comes out with Michigan on top by a significant margin:
If there is a Big Ten sport, Michigan has a team for it.
And it's likely a pretty good team.
The Wolverines' average Big Ten finish for 2012-13, among their 25 men's and women's teams, was 4.04, tops in the conference.
Nebraska's 21 teams had an average finish of 5.57, good for sixth place -- the same spot the Huskers occupied in 2011-12.
Minnesota was second with 4.43, Ohio State third. MSU was 10th, Iowa last.
Surprise. The 2015 Big Ten schedule is an inverse of the 2014 one, except I guess in terms of order. Michigan's docket:
- OCTOBER 3: @ Maryland
- OCTOBER 10: Northwestern
- OCTOBER 17: MSU
- OCTOBER 31: @ Minnesota
- NOVEMBER 7: Rutgers
- NOVEMBER 14: @ Indiana
- NOVEMBER 21: @ PSU
- NOVEMBER 28: OSU
Unfortunate bye timing. Not too worried about that @ PSU/OSU double bill since Penn State will still be in the meat of their sanctions at that point.
Peppers peppers peppers peppers peppers. If Jabrill Peppers's last name was Buffalo, that would be a sentence. Instead it is just a lead-in to Sam Webb profiling Mr. Peppers in the Detroit News. Peppers had a rough background—as you probably know, his dad has been in prison for going on ten years—and came through it:
"My brother (Don Curtis) was actually in (the street life), but that was the main person who sheltered me from it," Peppers explained. "He was my role model even though he was not doing what he was supposed to do. He kept me from doing the things that he was doing. I actually wanted to be out there with him. I didn't have a male role model in my life, so he was the closest thing to one. I was looking up to him so I was fighting every day, but every time he saw me out there in the street he would tighten me up and tell me to go home. He would tell me, 'This is not how (you're) going to do it! This is not how (you're) going to live (your) life.'"
His brother was murdered in 2010. The whole piece is highly recommended; it's going to be easy to root for him. Not that I have problems rooting for bionic supermen anyway.
Hello Hopkins. The Big Ten adds Johns Hopkins, which conveniently gets them to six lacrosse teams (M, OSU, PSU plus the two new additions). That's the minimum for an autobid and, like hockey, lacrosse is a minor but burgeoning sport that can fill airtime on the BTN. Hopkins is one of the sport's all-time great powers with a ludicrous 44 national titles, but once they missed the tourney this year for the first time since 1971 they decided something needed to change.
Hopkins is an academic powerhouse, of course, and since its only DI sport is lacrosse their addition doesn't do anything except set the Big Ten up as a power conference. The Big Ten wanted JHU pretty badly, as they allowed them to keep their current deal with ESPNU.
Hope. Brian Kelly on the M-ND series:
"We'd like to play each other," Kelly said. "I don't think it's ending. Give us some time to make it work."
I have my doubts since Notre Dame is stuck with five ACC games year—but they're not in a conference—and now that Michigan has MSU and OSU on the road at the same time they no longer want but in fact desperately need a sexy nonconference game in even years, when ND is away to USC and would prefer a home game against a marquee opponent themselves.
The dumbest thing Gordon Gee said. I know, I know, but where does your head have to be at when Rutgers is doing what Rutgers does right now and you drop this:
The blocking strategy is that we simply have now put the ACC in an almost no-win position. So who do they immediately go to? Louisville.
Yes. A no-win position in which they bring in the defending national champions in basketball and a BCS-bowl-winning football team with a fevered fanbase. Calling Bret Bielema a thug who was going to get fired after three straight Rose Bowl appearances is a strong #2, I'll grant.
Etc.: Yes in fact the Denard injury does hurt your heart. Indiana game at 3:30. The CJHL is coming down hard on teams in their purview that damage the NCAA eligibility of their players. Denard in Jacksonville. Free shirts for everyone. Scouting Tim Hardaway in preparation for the NBA draft. Lol rutgers.
Omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod—YOU GUYS!
We got a recruit. Like a GOOD recruit. Like the best recruit we've ever got, in the if-he-stays-ranked-as-high-as-he-is-in-May kind of way.
How do we feel about this? Happy right? Extraordinarily happy? Off the roof happy? Roses in our teeth happy? Really really really happy?
Like, the scouting reports are nudging you toward "2016 Heisman!!!" happiness. But then the Buckeyes in your life are reminding you that it's an aggregate science, not an exact one—and oh yeah in ur cass, stealin ur non-smurf dude. And your Sparty co-workers and family members are all reminding you that recruiting ratings don't matter nearly as much as how good your school is at developing players (and exciting new types of dirt). And your brain is like "there's only ever been between four and zero humans in the last 70 years as good at cornerback as HIM."
Stupid Buckeyes. Stupid Spartans. Stupid brain. #yalljustjealous #iknowitsenvyshutupimtryingtohashtaginhere
Alas, you're a Michigan fan, meaning even in moments like these you can never shut these people up. So let's try to come up with a reasonable level of expectation by peering into the careers of the few other consensus 5-star corners in the history of recruiting databases.
Class: 2002. School: Texas. Ht/Wt: 5'10/190. Rankings: #3 CB (after Leon Washington & Devin Hester) to Rivals, #3 CB (Hester, A.J. Davis) to Scout.
Other Suitors: Texas A&M, Miami (YTM), Nebraska, Oklahoma, Michigan State.
Scouting Report: Speed in buckets; one of the fastest-ever high school players in the country. Also a great running back and accomplished track star. Academic and behavioral red flags: has 'em.
College Career: Started immediately at nickel back and kickoff returner. Was caught with pot with a big group of teammate but the case was dismissed. Academic problems forced him to sit out his sophomore year and finally get dismissed from the team, transferring first to a junior college and then signing a letter of intent to play for Oregon State. However he couldn't get academically eligible there either so he stayed at his JC in '05 then went pro.
Pro Career: Signed with Jacksonville as a free agent in '06, released in preseason. Appeared on NFL Europe teams and most recently signed with an IFL team in 2010.
Applicability to Jabrill: Track star and standout running back in high school. McCullough's best 100-meter was a 10.32 (versus Jabrill's 10.83) and Edorian's 21.0 in the 200 meters would easily be the record in New Jersey, where Peppers came close with a 21.37. Peppers is fast but probably not Edorian McCullough fast. Edorian was a pure cover corner and sized like one—his Scout report said he was 5'9, though he appeared on Rivals and on the Texas roster as 5'11. Had a 30" vertical, which is just okay. The academic problems that sank him are the opposite for Jabrill, who wants to be an orthopedic surgeon and has a 3.9 GPA. Notably, nobody called McCullough "aggressive"—he was an okay high school tackler rated highly for his Deion-like skills.
[Hit the jump for the others]
BREAKING: ESPNU Host Doesn't Understand Concept Of "Freestyle"
In case you didn't put off your Sunday dinner plans while the Nebraska/Oregon softball game dragged on interminably, above is Jabrill Peppers' unsuspenseful-but-still-quite-worthwhile announcement of his college decision. Peppers decided on Michigan, of course, and you can find what I'm pretty sure is the longest "Hello" post in MGoHistory here if you spent your Memorial Day weekend doing things like "go outside and grill like a normal person."
The commitment post covers Peppers' considerable potential to make an on-field impact; he should also make a big splash as a recruiter now that he's in the fold, and told WolverineNation's Mike Rothstein that he's already got some key targets in mind:
"Oh yeah. Tell Da'Shawn Hand I'm coming," Peppers said. "They call me, 'Commish.' Commissioner Peppers. Malik McDowell. Da'Shawn Hand. You need those defensive linemen.
"A great defensive line makes a great DB and a great defensive secondary. Those guys are definitely on my radar. I'm coming strong. Emphasis on strong."
It may not stop there, though. The mere presence of the nation's best defensive back in Michigan's class should have other elite prospects giving the Wolverines a hard look—instead of shying away from competition, top prospects are looking to play with other top prospects these days—and Tim Sullivan lists a couple of very intriguing possibilities to fill the final defensive back spot should IL CB Parrker Westphal also join the class ($):
If U-M reels in Westphal, there may be only one space remaining in the secondary. It could be either a safety or a cornerback, thanks to the versatility of both Peppers and Westphal, but would almost certainly go to an elite player. Prospects such as Gardena (Calif.) Serra five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson and Long Beach (Calif.) Poly safety John "Juju" Smith are likely options.
While the Wolverines aren't the favorite to land either Jackson or Smith, both plan to visit Ann Arbor during the recruiting process—Smith even set up an official for the Notre Dame game—and we've seen what this coaching staff can do while hosting a prospect on campus. The limited space in the class, number of interested top prospects, depth on the current roster, and positional flexibility of the current/recent recruits (i.e. 2013's defensive back haul) all give Michigan the ability to hone in on a few top targets; think last year's USC class minus the overhanging NCAA sanctions and Lane Kiffin factor.
Oh, and regarding one particular five-star...
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Da'Shawn Hand—is Michigan now his leader?—and more.]
The worst-kept secret in college football recruiting went public this afternoon when the nation's top cornerback, Paramus (NJ) Catholic's Jabrill Peppers, committed to Michigan in a televised ceremony on ESPNU (well, eventually... but Peppers' own school just let the cat out of the bag). Peppers is the tenth commit in the Wolverines' 2014 class; as a consensus five-star, he's obviously the highest-ranked of the bunch.
Normally a commit's highlight video goes in a section near the bottom of these posts. In the case of Peppers, that would be a disservice. Lest the scouting portion read as unabashed hyperbole, please watch 12 jaw-dropping minutes highlighting Peppers' junior season:
This whole post will still read as unabashed hyperbole, sure, but now you see that's simply a result of play near-impossible to discuss in reasoned tones.
|Scout||Rivals||ESPN||247 Sports||247 Comp.|
5*, 6.1, #4 CB,
5*, #1 CB,
5*, 95, #1 CB,
5*, 99, #1 ATH,
5*, #1 ATH,
Among the four recruiting services, only Scout doesn't consider Peppers the top player at his position, and he would be the #1 corner on 247Composite if they ranked him there (instead, he's listed as an athlete/safety). Should his rankings hold, Peppers would be the highest-ranked Michigan commit on Rivals or ESPN in the history of those respective outlets—unless, say, the Wolverines signed a higher-rated prospect in this very class, but let's take it one step at a time here. Each site save Scout (6'0", 190) lists Peppers at 6'1" and 205-210 pounds, giving him an NFL frame for both cornerback and safety.
Let's start with the most negative scouting report, which comes from Peppers' Scout profile page:
STRENGTHS Backpedal Quickness Change of Direction Closing Speed
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT Blitzing Ability Hip Flexibility Tackling Ability
There's a reason Peppers is five-star recruit. He doesn't [sic] so many things well, and he is also a very good leader. He can stay tight on a receiver in press coverage and also breaks on a ball well when playing off a receiver. He has size, speed, loose hips, is a tough competitor and can be a standout at receiver, running back, safety and cornerback. He is the total package. --Brian Dohn
Yes, that's the negative one, because there are multiple weaknesses listed: namely, Peppers' ability to blitz and tackle, as well as his hip flexibility. Scout's own Stanford outlet disagrees vehemently with the blitzing and tackling bit ($):
Finally, Peppers shows on video to be a very tough player and a violent tackler. If he does, as most expect, end up on the defensive side of the ball, his reaction skills could place him in the role of a top-end cornerback. However, his willingness and ability to strike and his blitzing competence could make Peppers an excellent safety, given that he is already around six feet tall and 200 pounds, or a corner who could master the nickelback role when necessary. He closes well on run plays and does so with a purpose, making him an all-around football player well worthy of his gaudy offer list.
That nickelback part is important—given how Michigan is using similarly-elite young athlete Dymonte Thomas this year, there's a very good chance Peppers plays there as a freshman. For a third opinion on Peppers' run-support skills, here's his ESPN evaluation ($):
Takes a lot of snaps at safety and shows great range coming downhill to make run stops near the line of scrimmage. Can play physical when needed and is an aggressive football player on run support. Quick to read and react and come up for support. Takes sharp angles, closes strong with great burst and will wrap and pop as a tackler. Box run support is still an area that he could improve on, particularly if he ends up playing safety at the next level.
Michigan is recruiting Peppers as a cornerback—first and foremost, at least—so his work inside the tackle box isn't as great of a concern, especially since we're not entirely sure it's a huge concern in the first place. Here's ESPN again, this time on his coverage skills:
Has the cover corner movements and length to lock down in man-to-man. Transitions sharply with little wasted motion. A naturally fluid athlete who is smooth changing directions and shows ability to quickly flip hips to turn and run with receivers. Shines in tight coverage as well with loose, sudden movements to mirror and the hand strength and length to take away leverage and reroute. Hard to create separation on. Also flashes an extra gear to make up ground when caught in trail position. Turns and runs well to accelerate under the ball in deep coverage. Deep reactions and positioning are excellent but he also excels at closing the cushion in underneath zone schemes and limiting run after catch.
Um, NOT BAD, especially when his size is taken into account. If you're getting the sense that Peppers is the type of athlete who could pretty much play wherever he wanted... well, Scout's staff agrees with you ($):
Peppers would be a four-star running back, and a four-star receiver, but he is best in the secondary, where he would be a five-star safety if his best position was not cornerback. He is physical on the jam, has the acceleration to play off a receiver and then close quickly to break up a pass. He has loose hips and the ability to close, and he enjoys shedding blocks and making tackles.
Case in point—in February, Rivals did an overview of the top running backs of the 2014 class, and Mike Farrell's kicker quote puts Peppers in the same category as three five-star running backs ($):
"High school football is about keeping the ball in your best player's hands," he said. "We saw a time when that was guys like Percy Harvin and Derrick Williams and sometimes it is a dual-threat quarterback like Vince Young or Terrelle Pryor, but right now it is these guys.
"Players like (No. 2-ranked) Jabrill Peppers, [Jalen] Hurd, [Bo] Scarbrough, and [Leonard] Fournette are so talented that you want the ball in their hands 40 times a game if they can handle it. Their size makes them physically able to take it, and the physical gifts make them stand out for rankings purposes."
When doing a similar overview of this year's strong crop of cornerbacks—headline "The Year of the Cornerback ... again?"—Farrell again put Peppers in elite company; namely, saying he'd compete as a junior for the top spot in 2013's senior class, a highly lauded group themselves ($):
"Peppers' instincts, athleticism, speed and playmaking ability are very similar to former Florida All-American cornerback Joe Haden," Rivals.com Mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst Adam Friedman said. "He is the type of cornerback who can lock down one side of the field and is not afraid to come up hard to stop the run. Peppers is almost at that same level as Kendall Fuller and Vernon Hargreaves and would push for the top spot in the 2013 cornerback class. The three of them have a lot of the same qualities."
"Jabrill Peppers reminds me a little bit of Vernon Hargeaves III in build and ball skills, but Peppers is more explosive as an offensive player," Farrell said. "On defense, however, both are exceptional."
Rivals named Peppers as one of their initial 2014 five-stars (obviously, that opinion hasn't changed), and Adam Friedman cited a reason beyond his considerable physical talents ($):
Analyst's take: "Physical tools aside, Peppers' leadership qualities and toughness set him apart from other players with comparable measurables and should prove invaluable at the next level. Peppers has a variety of skills that make him an excellent all-around athlete. His toughness and aggressive mentality make him a shoe-in for the defensive side of the ball, most likely at cornerback. Peppers' technique and footwork make it extremely difficult for a receiver to get any separation, especially because Peppers has great closing speed. He is very physical when going in for a tackle and is always a threat when it comes to causing a turnover, whether he is picking off a pass or causing a fumble. He is even a disruptive force when rushing the passer because he disguises the blitz and has the speed and strength to beat the blocker." -- Adam Friedman, Mid-Atlantic Analyst, Rivals.com
This sentiment is very much shared by Peppers' high school coach:
His coach says: "Put aside the fact that he's 205 pounds and physical and extremely fast, his mentality and the mental aspects of his game, I think, make him what he is. He is so smart on and off the field and he really gets it. He understands the game. He feels it out and understands the schemes and what we are trying to do. His leadership is also great. He really is the total package. His work ethic is excellent. He is a competitor in everything he does. You can't ask for anything more and he's a leader and pushes his teammates. I can't predict the future but the sky is the limit for Jabrill. If he stays on this path, we're going to see some great things out of him. When he does move on, he's going to choose the right place and do some big things with his life." -- Paramus Catholic coach Chris Partridge
Partridge has good reason to be so laudatory—Peppers won him a state championship last season with a virtuoso performance in the title game:
CB/RB Jabrill Peppers
Paramus (N.J.) Paramus Catholic, 6-0, 185, Class of 2014
CONSIDERING: A top five of Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford and USC.
PERFORMANCE: Primarily playing as a Wildcat quarterback, Peppers rushed for more than 200 yards and had touchdown runs of 81 and 53 yards, the latter coming on Paramus' first offensive play, in a 37-34 win over Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic in the Non-Public, Group 4 championship.
WHAT IMPRESSED: The physical gifts are obvious but most impressive is how Peppers handled himself this season in the face of criticism. Peppers left national power Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco for Paramus Catholic this season, and it ended with him winning a championship. -- Jared Shanker
Shanker mentions Peppers transferring from traditional powerhouse Don Bosco before his junior season. This was a big deal, as even in his freshman season Peppers had analysts trying to put his talent in a historical context—here's Farrell again ($):
Jabrill Peppers, Don Bosco, 5-9/150, CB, 2014 prospect
Peppers is a true freshman who is already the talk of the Bosco coaching staff. Are we looking at the next great Bosco player and how will he handle the pressure of starting for last year's No. 1 team? Is he the best cornerback at Bosco since Michael Ray Garvin or will he be even better?
1.) CB Jabrill Peppers, Paramus Catholic (N.J.) -- Peppers is, without question, the top prospect in New Jersey and may be the best from the Garden State in a few years. Already an impact player on three state-championship teams (at the highest level of competition), Peppers could be on his way to being one of the best players in the history of the state.
Peppers might very well turn out to be the best prospect ever to come out of the state of New Jersey. He could star as a defensive back for any program in the country and could also be just as effective as a running back. Peppers is currently the No.2 ranked prospect in the nation and there really doesn't seem to be much he can't do. He fled Don Bosco and it was no coincidence that after six straight Bosco state titles, Peppers and Paarmus Catholic took that state crown in 2012.
...well, you read the bolded text, presumably. Recent five-star New Jersey prospects include Florida S Will Hill, Florida State S Myron Rolle, and Virginia OT Eugene Monroe, who went eighth overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. New Jersey may not have the talent of Texas or Florida, but it still produces plenty of top prospects, and Peppers ranks up there with any player to come out of the state—with his senior season still to play.
MARLIN JACKSON SCOUTING
I exchanged a few emails with former Michigan All-American defensive back and Super Bowl champion Marlin Jackson, who was kind enough to give his take on Peppers' film. Get ready for the comparison to beat all other comparisons, non-Fred Jackson division:
This young man is the total package at defensive back, he even has the skills to be a legitimate threat on offense, or in return game.
Top notch athleticism, speed, agility, and strength. Very, very instinctive player, anticipates snap count well when blitzing. He is more than a corner. This kid can be a lock-down corner and also slide inside and dominate at nickel back, covering and blitzing.
Closes on the ball extremely well, great ball skills, plays the ball well down field on receivers, goes up and makes plays. Exceptional tackler, closes ground fast and explodes on contact. My favorite thing about him is the passion and attitude he plays with, not cocky, but very, very confident, plays with swag and enthusiasm.
He will be a college football All-American, as long as he continues to work hard he should be a first-round draft pick, his talent is at that level. He's already built like a college corner, immediate starter from day one of stepping on a college campus.
Athleticism and skill of Patrick Peterson with overall football instincts of Charles Woodson.
Anyone and everyone, basically—here are the highlights: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Miami (YTM), Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Stanford, South Carolina, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, and West Virginia. Any major programs not on the list are missing for one of two reasons: they didn't have a chance and therefore didn't bother, or it reached the point where Peppers—like many top prospects making an early decision—stopped reporting each and every one of his offers.
From Juwann Bushell-Beatty's commitment post:
Led by Jabrill Peppers, Paramus Catholic won last year's state title in the New Jersey Non-Public Group 4 division, which includes football powerhouses like Don Bosco Prep. Despite their recent success, Paramus Catholic hasn't produced a ton in the way of BCS recruits—before this 2014 group, only 2011 four-star DT Marquise Wright (Rutgers) and 2010 three-star OL Dan Foose (Florida State) committed to BCS schools since 2002, per the Rivals recruiting database.
With all the talk of Peppers possibly being the best high school player in the history of New Jersey, it's safe to say he's the best prospect to ever come out of Paramus Catholic.
According to ESPN, Peppers rushed for 1,552 yards and 18 touchdowns on 172 carries (9.0 ypa), caught 20 passes for 337 yards (16.9 ypc) and five touchdowns, and recorded 77 tackles, two TFLs, a sack, and three interceptions as a junior. The tape also shows that Peppers was a terror in the return game and even completed a couple passes, so the above somehow fails to capture the entire impact of his performance.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 lists a 40 time of 4.50 seconds, which is entirely believable and gets zero FAKEs because...
REAL 100/200 TIMES
"He could've just chilled..."
...Peppers has posted very real, very fast times on the track this year:
The Paramus Catholic junior speedster set a meet record as he blazed to a 10.83 clocking to win the 100-meter sprint at Thursday’s sixth annual Don Bosco Ironman Invitational at Ramapo College.
Peppers, who slightly strained his right groin at last week’s Penn Relays, beat the mark of 10.95 by Hackensack’s Conroy Walker in 2010.
"I didn’t want to aggravate it but I ran overall pretty well. I came out of the blocks quick and just kept in a natural rhythm," Peppers said. "I’ve done as well as 10.8 this year and my personal best is 10.77 last year, but I think I can get it down to 10.4 by the time the states come around. That’s my goal and I think I can achieve it."
Oh, and the 100 may not be his best event—Peppers believed he broke the state record in the 200-meter dash earlier this month, and while a review revealed a timekeeping error...
Fraulo said Peppers' time is 21.37.
"That stands as official,'' said Fraulo.
...yeah, still fast.
If 12 minutes of highlights is too much, here's a condensed version of his junior highlights with some different camera angles and lots of slow-mo:
MaxPreps picks out the top ten plays from his junior film, which couldn't have been easy:
247 has a short sophomore reel:
Some people get all the talent, so of course Jabrill Peppers has considerable skill with a mic in his hand, not to mention a great ear for beats:
The song has a stamp of approval from Vin Rock of 90's hip hop legends Naughty By Nature—Vin (real name: Vinnie Brown) grew up in the same East Orange, NJ, neighborhood as Jabrill's father, Terry Peppers, and reached out to Jabrill (stage name: J-Reall) after seeing the music video on Twitter, according to this article from TomVH:
Brown happened to be looking through his Twitter feed when an article came across his tweets that mentioned the younger Peppers, whose rap name is JReall, and his new song, “Don’t Take it Personal.” Brown read the article and watched the music video and couldn’t believe what he had seen.
“I would always hear about [Jabrill], and it was kind of like we let him do his thing and now he’s surfacing on his own. That was the first time I had heard him rap, I didn’t even know he had a crew like that,” he said. “I watched the video and listened to the song and it is really good. Jabrill’s song is like a throwback to ’90’s hip hop and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really impressed.’ ”
Peppers began making music at ten years old, using it as way to relax—and also deal with the absence of his father, who's been imprisoned since Jabrill was seven years old and will see him for the first time since when he's paroled in June (the two have kept in touch only by phone in the last ten years). If you need any further indication that Peppers is mature beyond his years, I strongly recommend reading that article.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
In case it isn't clear by this point, Peppers is going to get a chance to make an impact in all three phases of the game: while he projects best to cornerback, he could also line up at running back, wide receiver, wildcat quarterback, safety, and kickoff and punt returner. Yes, insert the Charles Woodson quote here:
"[Greg Mattison] compared me to (Woodson) a lot actually, but my goal is that I want to be better than Charles Woodson," Peppers said confidently. "I love the way Coach Greg Mattison uses his corners and his scheme. It absolutely fits into my style of play — aggressive (and) fearless. He wants his corners to be fearless. If he wants you to go lockup on an island, you had better lockup on that island. If he wants you to come off the edge, you better come off the edge ready to bring some pain."
(Woodson approves, by the way.) So, yeah, there's that.
In my opinion, Michigan is going to initially use Peppers much like they'll use Dymonte Thomas this fall—Thomas, who projects to safety down the road, has already locked down the starting nickelback job after enrolling early. Thomas should move to safety in 2014 when Thomas Gordon's spot will be available, leaving the nickel position available for Peppers to step in and make an early impact. I asked Marlin Jackson why it seems the Wolverines are putting their most physically talented freshmen defensive backs at the nickel spot before moving them to their natural position, and he provided this explanation—based in large part on his own experience at Michigan:
Nickel is just about raw athleticism, not as much about technique, more so about about natural football instincts and skills. This is why most schools put top incoming freshmen in this slot.
Nickel was my starting position and I was starting by Big Ten play. Allows you to get comfortable. When you have players like Jabrill, myself, and Dymonte, who are athletic, have good size and instincts along with a physical style of play, you have good candidate for nickelback.
After a freshman year at nickel, Peppers could either wrest the starting boundary corner spot away from Raymon Taylor or stay in the slot for a second year until Taylor graduates. By 2015, I'd expect to see him locking down that boundary spot, where his size and skill in run support make him an ideal fit. He could also end up as a jack-of-all-trades defensive back, lining up all over the field to keep offenses on their toes, and he'll almost certainly make an impact in the return game and see some snaps on offense.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Peppers accounts for one of what should be two cornerback spots in the 2014 class; at this point, it looks likely that Peppers will be joined by IL CB Parrker Westphal whenever the latter makes his decision, though the Wolverines will also pursue five-star CA CB Adoree' Jackson and four-star DC CB Jalen Tabor, among others. Other remaining needs include strongside linebacker, a third offensive lineman, and a couple of three-tech/SDE types.
The biggest upshot from Peppers' commitment, though, may be the impact it has on the decision of other top recruits—namely #1 overall prospect Da'Shawn Hand, whom Peppers has told his fellow Michigan commits is his top recruiting priority as a member of Team 135. There's no question that Michigan landing a prospect of Peppers' caliber will send waves through the recruiting community and catch the attention of top national prospects, and with the way Brady Hoke is recruiting that could be enough to vault the Wolverines into serious contention for the top recruiting class in 2014—the only mitigating factor may be the small projected size of the class (currently slated to be 15 players but likely to approach 20 when all is said and done).
Take it away, drum major: