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


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)


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.


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.



April 30th, 2014 at 4:57 PM ^

I felt like I was watching 8 minutes of unnecessary roughness. It just didn't seem fair that other highschoolers had to play against him. Obviously highschool is much different, but damn!

Perd Hapley

April 30th, 2014 at 5:28 PM ^

I mentioned in another post how he will start day 1 at Nickel corner the way Woodson did as a freshman. I think once he masters this he will push for more PT at corner or safety. Mastering the Nickel spot will probably be much easier for him to focus on because he will not be on the field every play. Does anyone know how often we will have our Nickel package on the filed? 25% 50% of the time? My guess is more like 40% but I have no numbers to back that up and probably depends on opponents this season. More or less spread teams. I also hope we get him a few plays on offense.


April 30th, 2014 at 5:37 PM ^

I think Brian and Seth have said it's almost half the time.  As you say, depends on teams we play and also how often we can get teams into 3rd and long.  Starting nickel by conference play would be ideal, with one of Dymonte Thomas (please) / Jeremy Clark / Delano Hill playing so well in Fall camp that they lock down the other saftey spot. 

Nickel CB should leave him plenty of time to get some reps on offense for a B1G championship run, mid to late season.


April 30th, 2014 at 11:43 PM ^

I don't want to doubt Peppers' talent. But penciling in freshman DBs has made fools of more than a few UM fans. There was Justin Turner, who not only didn't start but turned out to be the ultimate recruiting flameout (with no real warning signs beforehand), and last year Dymonte Thomas, who the verdict is still out on but couldn't see the field when just about everyone had him as the starting nickel.

Yes, Peppers might be as great as they say. But this shit is very unpredictable.

Perd Hapley

April 30th, 2014 at 5:41 PM ^

Also I don't have enough points to start a topic but an article in the Toledo Blade was talking about fans getting on Urban about him only have 2 commits so far. I know there has been a lot of negativity on this board as of late with hoke and recruiting so I found this relevant. Maybe we should relax a bit because other teams are in the same boat in terms of recruiting.



April 30th, 2014 at 5:47 PM ^

Not to many players generate this kind of buzz from literally everybody. He should be a special player and hopefully will be a part of some great teams.


April 30th, 2014 at 5:49 PM ^

unless one of the contenders steps up and really earns that other safety spot then i see peppers sliding in next to wilson.  given their apparent confidence in lewis and stribling and hokes usual refusal to 100% replace upperclassmen even if totally outclassed, then i see peppers making more of an impact at safety than starting the year getting reps of 3rd or 4th corner or playing some nickel.   the best athlete on the team stepping in and reacting at safety with wilson shifting to more of true FS sounds ok


April 30th, 2014 at 5:57 PM ^

If Peppers gets reps returning kicks Norfleet has no chance of holding him back.  Peppers is bigger, faster and better at eluding tacklers and breaking tackles.  Oh, and in those highlights, he caught everything thrown to him!

But seriously, I've never been a big Norfleet fan.  IMO, all he has is burst.  Peppers has superquick vision that prompts him to move into space the tackler can't get to in time.  And if the tackler can get a hand on him, it's not going to take Peppers down.  Can't say any of that about Norfleet.  How many times has he gone down by the ankle?  A hundred?




April 30th, 2014 at 6:30 PM ^

For the record I am on the Peppers band wagon and can't wait till he arrives.  I also think he makes an immediate difference in the defense.  But, FWIW I can't see how he's actually 6'1".  Woodson is universally listed as 6'1" everywhere and he's clearly taller than Peppers.  There are a couple of shots of the two standing next to each other and Woodson is clearly taller in every one of them.


May 1st, 2014 at 8:18 PM ^

Doesn't look quite as bad here, and assuming Wilson is actually the 6'2" he's listed at, that looks about right...an inch taller than Woodson.  But, Peppers definitely looks more like 5'11"ish to me.  He doesn't look too much taller than Lewis whose all the way to the right, and listed at 5'10".  Oh well, he's still a 5-star, but man 6'1" for a corner had such a nich ring to it.


April 30th, 2014 at 7:21 PM ^

Love the way he tackles which I'm sure we'll see plenty of. Also, love the way he reads blocks and angles when he's running the ball. I'm thinking there's a chance we'll get to see some of that as well.  If I were him I'd be honored to wear #2 but don't sell yourself short bro. Keep #5 and maybe down the road some kid will say I'd be honored to wear #5.  The potential is there.


April 30th, 2014 at 7:50 PM ^

After he returns a kick for a TD, an INT for a TD, a punt returned for a TD, and a fumble recovery for a TD, what will he do in the 2nd half against OSU?

True Blue In Ohio

April 30th, 2014 at 7:51 PM ^

Could this one player be the catalyst that makes it all come together?  Sometimes players like this elevate the play of all around them(cough, Tebow).  I am praying!!!  Kick returns, punts, offensive decoy, reverses.  Get the ball in his hands as often as possible....PLEASE!

The FannMan

April 30th, 2014 at 7:59 PM ^

I have a concern about how this jives with the universe's apparent decision that we can't have nice things anymore.

With that said, I can't wait to see this guy in the Big House.  


April 30th, 2014 at 8:28 PM ^

If his future in the pros is on defense, then I think the coaches ought to play him on D. That said, I'd really prefer to line him up in the offensive backfield and let him have 25 touches per game. Either way, exciting player.


April 30th, 2014 at 8:44 PM ^

We got corners; we're thin at safety.  What's that?

"Generally it is harder to make the big game-changing impact from a safety spot"

Really?  Try this on for size as a ceiling for Peppers:

Jordan Kovacs but with elite athleticism.

He's already a terrific athlete.  I want to see how far his brain goes.  And Mattison LURVED moving Kovacs around to wreak havoc.


May 1st, 2014 at 11:44 AM ^

"Jordan Kovacs but with elite athleticism." <drools...>

As dragonchild notes, we've got corners in numbers, and pretty good ones. I'm particularly excited to see what Lewis and Stribling can do this year. If I'm the coaches, I know I've only got Peppers for 3 years if he's all we think he is, so I need to maximize his impact in year one, and the Eric Berry "Safety of Doom" role seems the best bet.  By all accounts he's a bright kid and quick learner, so "Jordan Kovacs with elite athleticism" sounds like something attainable in the near term. Play him at safety and let that athleticism go to work screaming toward the line of scrimmage on blitzes and blowing up bubble screens and read-option plays. (To me, it's a similar deal as moving Jake Ryan to MLB -- get your most dynamic players in the middle of the action on as many plays as possible.) Might be some growing pains in early games, but by the back half of the season "Jordan Kovacs but with elite athleticism" is the kind of player who can take our D from pretty solid to near-dominant (especially if we can find any kind of decent pass rush).




April 30th, 2014 at 9:01 PM ^

I know this is nitpicky, but after watching the highlight films and reading the scouting expert write ups, I have but 1 question: how on earth is an offensive tackle rated ahead of him? Seriously...how can an offensive lineman have a bigger impact than what you saw in the videos? Do his opponents disintegrate when he touches them? Does he block 4 players on every play? I don't understand.


April 30th, 2014 at 10:39 PM ^

Gotta chime in here....for all the exagerrated negativity and horseshit lately, this made me realize that we are not mentioning and parading Peppers enough. Seriously. This player is the edge needed for the way back to Michigan football. And damn us for losing sight of it... I think we need a Peppers reference daily, because it affects perception. We have a defensive prospect that surfaces perhaps once every five years... maybe clowney and peterson are the others

Lou MacAdoo

April 30th, 2014 at 10:39 PM ^

I just hope the staff knows what they're doing and puts him in the best position to maximize his abilities. I don't know what position that is as it seems all of them would work. Is there any doubt that he would be our most dynamic option at RB right off the bat?


May 1st, 2014 at 12:04 AM ^

I realize this kid has tons of athleticism but asking a true frosh, who's NOT an early enrollee, to come into fall camp and start trying to learn both offensive and defensive formations as well as terminology seems like you're putting a huge load on his shoulders.



May 1st, 2014 at 10:11 AM ^

I think Pepper's is going to tear it up as a freshman.  We'll see him at WR, RB, PR, KR and of course a lock down corner but he could be a great FS.  It will be interesting to see if he ends up as a DB or FS on defense.


May 1st, 2014 at 11:25 AM ^

RB?  No thanks.  An every-down player on defense shouldn't be taking that punishment.  Smith/Green will be splitting carries as it is because the job's so brutal.

WR, depends on how our crop pans out.  The 1997 team used Woodson as WR -- and no, not as a decoy -- because they lacked playmakers on offense.  2014-15 is a very different story.  Odds are whoever gets out of the logjam that is Canteen, Chesson, Darboh, Funchess, Harris, Jones, Norfleet & York are going to be pretty darn good.

PR/KR - again, we have candidates, starting with Norfleet.  I'd also give Canteen a try; I wanna see what his happy feet can do against a coverage squad.  Peppers can do it all but the nice thing is that he doesn't need to do it all.

We shouldn't need more playmakers on offense; what we need is an O-line and Peppers can't help with that.  Frankly, I doubt he'll even end up at corner full-time if Watson pans out.  On the other hand he's the perfect answer to "who plays opposite Wilson" by his sophomore season.

I really see him as a CB/NB/LB/FS hybrid where he'll roam all over the field, taking away the offense's dangerman, much like Kovacs .  If it's a fast QB he'll play closer to the line.  If it's spread-to-run he'll line up at nickel in case they try to run or throw playside.  If they have a go-to shifty receiver a la Gallon he might be expected to shut him down in man coverage.  But god forbid the stupidest thing to do would be to keep him at one position week to week just because.  I don't expect Mattison to say, "Yeah I know Ohio State gashed our front seven for 6.8ypc but Peppers is the boundary corner."

We won't see him in one fixed position if he's got the athleticism to move to where the ball's gonna go.