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Midseason Grades: Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers Is Spectacular

Photo: Andy Shippy

ANN ARBOR, Mich.–On Tuesday, Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News asked Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis what he thought about his teammate Jabrill Peppers.

Simply put, the 6’1,” 205-pound redshirt freshman safety has been phenomenal throughout the first seven weeks of the season. Defense, offense, special teams. Doesn’t matter. He’s a proven asset.

“He can make a difference anywhere he is–you know, he is the ultimate playmaker,” Lewis said. “He’s a competitor. Honestly, I haven’t seen too many guys like that in my life. And you know, when you got a guy who can do anything on the field, it’s amazing. Honestly, it’s a blessing.”

Steve Kornacki of MGoBlue then asked about Peppers’ vision.

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Think of this position as the calm before the storm. It’s only a matter of time before Jabrill Peppers returns a kick or punt for a touchdown. Photo: Andy Shippy

“Honestly, it’s just God-given. Honestly, it’s just something that he came with,” Lewis replied.

On Saturday, Peppers racked up 164 all-purpose yards–35 from receiving, 81 from kickoff returns and 48 from punt returns–during the Wolverines’ 27-23 loss to Michigan State. One play, in particular, sticks out among the rest–his 28-yard reception that set up Sione Houma’s touchdown, giving Michigan a 17-7 lead roughly midway through the third quarter.

On 1st-and-15 from Michigan State’s 31-yard line, Peppers caught a pass while streaking from the backfield up the left sideline. He was stopped at the 3-yard line. De’Veon Smith followed with a 2-yard carry, which in turn allowed Houma to score on 3rd-and-goal.

He really can do it all in every area of the game.

Teams don’t often kick to Peppers. As a matter of fact, Michigan State may have been the bravest so far. For some reason, punter Tyler O’Connor sent the ball toward Peppers a couple of times.

Peppers excited the crowd each time he touched the ball, and the Spartans were certainly lucky that he didn’t return one for a touchdown.

It’s coming, though. A couple of weeks ago, Peppers adamantly said that the Wolverines were very close to returning a kick or punt for six.

Odds are, with Peppers beginning to really emerge, that’ll be sooner than later for Michigan, which sits at 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten during this bye week.

Through seven games, Peppers has 14 punt returns for 144 yards (long of 34)–an average of 10. 3 yards per attempt. According to BigTen.org, that number is comparable to league leaders.

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Jabrill Peppers has 23 tackles, the fifth-most on the team. Four-and-half of them were a loss, also the fifth-best mark on the team. Photo: Andy Shippy

With seven kick returns for 180 yards, Peppers averages a noteworthy 25.7 yards per attempt (long of 49). With With 14 returns for 291 yards, Maryland’s Will Likely–who averages 20.8 YPR–rounds out the Big Ten’s top three kick-return leaderboard.

Peppers is right there among the league’s best special-teamers, and he’ll be there for at least two more years–only to exit as one of the Big Ten’s most dazzling return men when his time comes.

Defensively, Peppers has done an excellent job of manning the safety position.

Because of the dangers involved, most teams think twice before trying to air out the ball versus Peppers, Lewis and the rest. Due to speed, vision and hands, Peppers is all but due for an interception. He’s impacted so many areas, but he’s yet to pick-off a pass. He has five breakups, the second-most behind Lewis’ 14; however, like Lewis said, Peppers’ presence is felt everywhere.

Maybe a pick isn’t such a big deal after all?

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Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers defines the term “do-all player.” Photo: Andy Shippy

From coach Jim Harbaugh, to defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, to secondary coaches Mike Zordich and Greg Jackson–everyone has said the same thing. Lewis’ recent comments only confirm the obvious. Back in spring, Jackson compared Peppers to former NFL All-Pro defensive back Rodney Harrison. Zordich raved about Peppers’ ability.

Everyone.

It’s to the point where the entire team–of the members who have been asked–has, in some form or fashion, given its version of “Jabrill is the man” to the media.

As of now, he averages 50.1 yards of production per game. To put things into perspective, wide receiver Jehu Chesson averages a team-leading 69.9 per game. Running back De’Veon Smith averages 60.6 all-purpose yards.

Peppers has made the grade on special teams. He’s done so while on defense and offense, too. It doesn’t have to be said, but here it goes anyway: Peppers deserves every bit of an A, and he’s only one touchdown away–however it comes–from solidifying an A+.

Follow Adam Biggers of Today’s U on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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