2014 Recruiting: Jabrill Peppers

Submitted by Brian on April 30th, 2014 at 3:12 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles, CB Brandon Watson.

       
Paramus, NJ – 6'1", 210
       

 jabrill-peppers_thumb[1]

Scout 5*, #3 overall
#1 CB, #1 NJ
Rivals 5*, #3 overall
#1 CB, #1 NJ
ESPN 5*, #2 overall
#1 CB, #1 NJ
24/7 5*, #4 overall
#1 CB, #1 NJ
Other Suitors Alabama, OSU, ND, Florida, LSU, everyone else
YMRMFSPA Charles Woodson
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace. One Frame At A Time on the run. Picture Pages on the run. Comparing Peppers to hyped dudes past.
Notes Paramus Catholic (Juwann Bushell-Beatty)

Film

Junior year:

Senior year:

And you're probably familiar with this one:

Do I actually need to write this one? Surely you are full to the brim with Jabrill Peppers information. Eighteen years ago he sliced open his father's head with a sword and leapt forth, fully formed, ready to wreak havoc upon Persians and Carthaginians alike. After shoving the Indian subcontinent into an aesthetically pleasing location he wandered the world, dispensing sage advice to operators of wheeled vehicles of all descriptions everywhere. He decided to go to Michigan to win the Heisman as a defensive back and did so twice in the future forever and ever amen.

The end. Hooray.

If you are not sated yet, here's all this other stuff. Let's start with the various "room for improvement" sections found in scouting reports. Clint Brewster:

Improvements: It is very hard to find a flaw or a glaring area for improvement in Peppers game.

Brian Dohn:

What Needs Work

I’m sure when Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile, there must have been one bad step during it, so it leaves room for Peppers, the No. 4 prospect in the nation, with things to improve upon.

Does anyone have an actual criticism? Second chance time, Mr. Dohn.

The only thing with Peppers is sometimes he is so aggressive and wants to make a play so badly, he will bust an assignment in the passing game or guess which hole to fill in the running game rather than just wait for the play to develop and do his one-eleventh.

All right, then. These are the… uh… multiple and serious negatives of Jabrill Peppers. Offsetting these are some meager positives that may one day see him squeeze onto a Division I football field.

  • Brewster, 247: "Peppers is a rare athlete with potential to be great at the next level. He is one of the most talented players I have ever seen at the high school level. At 6-foot-1, and 205-pounds, Peppers has college ready size to go with un-matched speed and explosiveness."
  • Dohn, Scout: "Peppers has it all. The speed, acceleration, change of direction, ability to turn his hips and cover down or across the field, leadership, competitiveness, physicality, strength and a high football IQ."
  • Adam Friedman, Rivals: "Peppers' incredible natural athleticism combined with his big frame and tireless work ethic has helped him become a true lockdown cornerback. "
  • Scott Kennedy, Scout: "…could play four to five different positions and excel at them.  He is a strong running back.  He is as fluid as a good corner.  He hits like a linebacker.  He could play safety.  You could honestly take him and put him in an outside linebacker position and he would flourish.  He is going to return kicks.  He is going to return punts.  He catches anything that is near him.  He is spectacular."
  • Tom Luginbill, ESPN: "…in the past nine classes we are not quite sure we have seen a skilled athlete on defense like Peppers. He is as naturally gifted and explosive of an athlete as we can recall and he could play five positions."
  • ESPN evaluation: "Has sudden movements but can also accelerate at a premium level with great top-end speed. … Will arrive with or shortly after the ball before the receiver can react. Naturally gets his head around to locate the ball and competes for it like a WR when it's in the air. Shows really good tracking and ball skills and a natural awareness around the football in all three phases of the game. … Shines in tight coverage … Takes sharp angles, closes strong with great burst and will wrap and pop as a tackler. … game changer."
  • Tim Sullivan, Rivals: "While he's not his listed 6-1 (more like a shade under 6-0), Peppers' weight won't be in question. He is already built like an NFL defensive back, and hits with the force you'd expect. Throughout the week in practice, he could barely prevent himself from laying a big hit in the run game or against a wide receiver while playing coverage … also every bit the explosive athlete we expected him to be. "
  • USC coach: "Holy s---, that's him? I've only seen two players in high school with a body like that and both of them are named Peterson [Adrian and Patrick]."

"Is that all?" you scowl whilst raising a glass of cognac to your lips. "I had heard he was rather something." You're such an elitist.

Anyway, everyone who has seen Peppers has come away fanning themselves and trying to jam more stars into the guy's profile. There is no dissention here, except as to where he will play.

Two of the above evaluations mention he could play four or five positions (RB, WR, CB, S, and maybe OLB is how that breaks down), and several articles bat that possibility about. 247's JC Shurburtt asserts that he's a surer thing on offense because there's no denying his ability there ("electric and dynamic") and he may outgrow the corner spot if he's not enough of a freak athlete to outgrow the corner spot and still play corner. On the other hand, Rivals suggests he's more of a sure thing on D, and everyone ranks him there.

10%20Spin-o-rama[1]

This was not at cornerback

So then where does he end up? We've already had a rather long comedy breakdown of something Peppers did on offense on this site. Meanwhile, poke an analyst in the right mood, as Sam Webb did, and you'll find yourself asking a follow-up question like so:

You mentioned he could play five positions at the next level.  At what position do you think he would have the greatest impact?

And the floodgates veritably open with comparisons to other players. Most are corners, but some don't make any sense so the ones that do make sense are split between CB, S, and offense: Take your pick from:

  • Joe Haden, CB, Florida/Cleveland Browns. This was Rivals' rather bizarre shot at a comparison, one that starts out with "physically, Haden and Peppers aren't very similar." They do assert that Haden and Peppers are both "strong, physical cornerbacks" who will come up against the run. Haden was a HS QB, just about exclusively.
  • Greg Reid, CB, FSU/St Louis Rams. Reid is apparently the nouveau Antione Winfield since he is 5'8" but Peppers's UA coach brought him up as a comparison point because he levels people: "He reminded me of Greg Reid. I’ve never seen a corner come down that fast underneath -- that aggressive. He is a corner that I think can hit like a linebacker. He wants to hit. He doesn’t want to stray from a hit. To be that muscular he has great fundamentals. I think he’s probably the most physical corner we have here.” This gentlemen then said he was going to be a safety/rover/hybrid guy after comparing him to a 5'8" corner.
  • Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU/Arizona. The most sensible CB comparison comes from Peppers himself, who notes their almost identical size. 247's Clint Brewster also cites Peterson in his evaluations.
  • Reggie Bush, RB, USC/Lions. Since no one ventured a specific player who made sense when talking about Peppers's vast offensive potential, this one's mine. When searching for an offensive comparison, Scout's Scott Kennedy started talking about De'Anthony Thomas, a 165-pound dude when he entered college. Bush is now listed at 203 on his NFL bio and has the same height as Peppers; Peppers can make a legit claim to his explosiveness. Peppers projects as a RB/WR space hybrid type guy more than a Green-style pounder.
  • Eric Berry, S, Tennessee/Chiefs. Kennedy did bring up an interesting name whilst fighting himself about where to play Peppers: Berry, a box safety/hybrid space player/all-around-pain: "I think his impact on the game [would be maximized by] letting him roam around a little bit and freelance and let him play – an Eric Berry style of safety where they would walk him up. I mean, Eric Berry had 15 tackles for loss.  He is that kind of a player.  Eric Berry, I thought, was maybe the best player in college football a couple of years ago.”

Meanwhile, the guy you may have heard of mentioned above in You May Remember Me From Such Players as spans all of these things: a corner, return guy, and occasional wide receiver at Michigan, Charles Woodson spent time at corner, safety, and nickel in the NFL, excelling at all three. As the NFL game became more spread out, Woodson flipped inside to provide the triple threat skills the ideal HSP manages: blitz, cover, and support the run. A former Stanford player lays out Peppers' ability in that department:

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.

Erase the first word in that evaluation and it may as well read "Woodson."

    Now… take a look at the Michigan roster and think back to what they were doing with the defense in spring: one high safety, cornerbacks in your grill, one definitively box safety plunging down to the line to disrupt things. Generally it is harder to make the big game-changing impact from a safety spot, but if you've got the skillset it is possible—Berry was the fifth pick in the draft—and Peppers seems to have it.

What about next year? Expect a bit of a slow start if Peppers does slot in at corner. Paramus used Peppers mostly as a safety, so the finer points of tight coverage are things he'll have to develop. His UA position coach:

“Maybe he needs to work on just the biggest fundamentals of a cornerback,” Cox said. “We all know he’s aggressive now so it’s now work on reading the routes a little quicker, reading the quarterback drops, understanding the pass drops a little better.

“He’s more run oriented. You can tell he wants to play run, run, run -- sit back a little more and work on your passing routes, work on the quarterback drops and your receiver breaks.”

 Peppers self-scout:

"I definitely want to improve on my hip flexibility," Peppers said. "I know that I've been ranked and seen as the top cornerback in the country, but people don't realize that it's actually a pretty new position for me. I don't have a lot of experience there. Given that, I know I need to continue to learn about the position and learn how to understand it. Once I really understand and grasp it and am able to combine it with my athletic ability, the sky will be the limit for me at the position."

Perhaps this would be arrogant, except literally everyone else who has described Peppers's potential has echoed it. So it's just normal.

Don't expect him to take too long, though. Unlike Brandon Watson he's had to do a variety of things in a variety of ways. As a bonus, various coaches say he picks things up quickly. His high school coach:

“He's playing safety for us and our defense is really a complicated type defense. We don’t sit in one thing. We combo cover. He’s used as a robber, he blitzes, he makes calls on the field himself, the check coverages. We tried to broaden his football horizon and say you know what, you’re one of the top-rated kids in the country, you’re going to learn the game big time and we’re going to put a lot on you.”

If Michigan does chuck him in at safety he could win the starting job opposite Wilson quickly. Probably not opener quickly; Big Ten play is a possibility.

I was in Camp Boundary Corner before doing this evaluation and now I'm torn between that and Safety Of Doom who moves down to play nickel/SAM against spread teams, sort of like Stevie Brown except riding an avalanche of dinosaurs. I won't regard any move as a bad sign, but rather an an attempt to get him on the field.

Etc.: Had a difficult upbringing. Surprise! He's a track star. I forgot to mention The Pattern, didn't I?

"I treat Jabrill like he's one of our coaches," Partridge says. "I'll tell him things that I would never tell other players. I treat him like one of the coaches because he can handle it, he gets it."

"Jabrill Peppers endless love tribute." Why he chose Michigan in his own words.

Why Charles Woodson? You're damn right I'm breaking out the big one. If not for Peppers, then for who?

And it is a super-tight comparison anyway. Peppers and Woodson are both burly boundary corner types with the physicality to get in the box and put a guy on the ground. Peppers was the top cornerback in the country; Woodson was also but just wasn't rated like it. Dynamic skills extend to offense, where return jobs and opportunities to moonlight as a slot receiver beckon. Same size, same skillset, same everything.

Guru Reliability: High. All say the same thing, was scouted top to bottom for years, all star game appearance.

Variance: Low. Already physically ready. Some question about experience at the cornerback spot but CB is a location about athleticism above all. Has 87 backup options if CB doesn't work out.

Ceiling: Can't hold us.

General Excitement Level: Yowza.

Projection: Michigan's jam-packed corner situation makes things a little questionable in year one. Is he displacing one of Taylor/Countess/Lewis? Well… maybe. None of those guys bring the size Peppers does to the table and that boundary corner spot is just begging for a guy who has the size and athleticism he does. But that'll happen gradually, as has been the case for all Michigan cornerback standouts past: about half a year working his way into the lineup before a mid-season promotion to the starting job.

Taylor departs after this year so the boundary spot should be his for the next two or three years, probably two.

The other option is for Peppers to be a heavily box-oriented safety and hybrid space player. It is not a terrible idea what with Michigan in possession of Lewis and Stribling for the next three years plus Countess for the next two; guys like Peppers can have the same level of impact elite corners do and the potential upgrade at SS looks like a bigger one than the potential upgrade at CB.

And what about the other side of the ball? He'll be given every opportunity to take kickoff and punts from day one; Norfleet is going to have to hold him off. Working him into the offense is probably something for 2015 and beyond. Once that milestone is hit, though, you'd have to be nuts not to at least explore the possibility.

Comments

True Blue Grit

April 30th, 2014 at 3:33 PM ^

Peppers is the best college and pro prospect in his class.  He's the total package of pure athletic ability, size, skill, confidence, leadership, aggressiveness, and team-orientation.  To what degree he fulfills his huge potential, we'll all have to wait and see.  But, I think he is likely to see some play on offense this year.  Maybe not a lot, but enough to strike fear into the hearts of defensive coordinators on our schedule.  Nussmeier will be chomping at the bit while pleading with Brady Hoke to let him put Peppers in a few plays here and there.   Either way, I'm hugely excited about seeing him on the field this fall.  

Blue In NC

April 30th, 2014 at 3:52 PM ^

Michigan seems to lack dynamic playmakers on offense right now (outside of Gardner, Funchess and maybe Butt).  The RBs are power types and the WRs (beyond Devin) are mostly untested.  I see a real opportunity at RB or WR for Peppers, especially if he is not a defensive starter from day one and those two positions are amoung the easiest to contribute as a freshman.  Obviously, you have to watch out for injury at RB but Peppers seems pretty durable.  I honestly expect to see him playing on both sides of the ball at certain points this next year.

Bodogblog

April 30th, 2014 at 5:30 PM ^

Don't sleep on Justice Hayes.  He's still small, but he made some dynamite cuts in the spring game/practice, and showed some speed.  If he develops a bit of the Vincent Smith approach to pass blocking, he can make some noise this year.  I really like Green and Deveon Smith as well, so I'm not sure I commit practice time for Peppers there - it both takes Peppers away from D and takes offensive reps from those 3 guys.

Still think it's best to put him at nickel and keep him there.  Then put him at slot for bubble screens (Nuss throws them) and slants.  He did that in HS.

UM456670

April 30th, 2014 at 3:53 PM ^

Can 't wait to see him play............do anything: nickel, punt return.....you name it and this kid can probably do it, in much the same manner as.........Woodson? 

Hell yes!

Trebor

April 30th, 2014 at 4:06 PM ^

Yes to Peppers playing safety. I've always thought that, if you can have an elite player anywhere in the back seven, a safety is the most dangerous. Maximize his impact in both the run and pass. I'd love to see him used similar to the way the Steelers use Polamalu (when he's not hurt) if his instincts pan out anywhere near his ceiling.

Zone Left

April 30th, 2014 at 4:23 PM ^

No mention of Dymonte Thomas? In terms of ideal scenarios, isn't he ready to play the safety position you're pushing for Peppers? 

I'd think the perfect world would be Peppers starting at nickel while gradually forcing his way outside to boundary corner.

havkarl

May 1st, 2014 at 10:57 AM ^

While funny, its also sadly true how quickly we can forget how young some of these players are. Thomas has the physical tools and instincts to take the safety position eventually. I am hoping sooner than later, but there is no doubt the potential is there.

I dumped the Dope

April 30th, 2014 at 4:35 PM ^

Its just a matter of time.  He hits very hard when he smells the ball....a lot harder than most other HS players I see on film (don't watch that many, just a few highlights, but)  I think he will want to make a statement and I can't wait to be there for the next set of highlight reels! Go Blue !!

M-Lemon

April 30th, 2014 at 4:46 PM ^

Let's not overlook his awesome football name.  I mean, woud we really be as excited if his name was Fred Smith?  Thanks Mr. & Mrs. Peppers!