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November 15, 2013 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-11-15

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8 -- Friday, November 15, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com - I

Jabrill Peppers: The next Woodson?

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By JASON RUBINSTEIN
Daily Sports Writer
Dozens of reporters crowded a
glorified media closet that, on the
afternoon of May 27, 2013, served
as an ESPNU studio to broadcast
the college decision of a 6-foot,
205-pound athlete who can score
from virtually any position -
Jabrill Peppers.
Once the cameras started roll-
ing, Peppers dove right into a rap:
"I couldsee it now
The fans scream and yellin'
As I'm walking out that tunnel
Wearing a winged helmet
Go blue, baby. I'm going to
Michigan."
Seconds later, ESPN's No. 2
high-school player in the country,
an Under Armour All-America
Game invitee, put on the winged
helmet. Beaming with happi-
ness, he sealed his commitment
to Michigan,
The Wolverines hadn't seen a
commit with his potential two-
way abilities since they signed
Charles Woodson over a decade
ago, The ex-Don Bosco Prepara-
tory (N.J.) and current Paramus
Catholic (N.J.) star had become
Michigan's highest-ranked com-
mit ever, and any doubts about
coach Brady Hoke as a recruiter
were squashed.
The Woodson comparisons
immediately ensued.Yes, Charles
Woodson, the Michigan legend
and surefire NFL Hall of Famer.
Comparing a high-school senior
to arguably the best Michigan
defender ever seems a bit unfair,
but the 1997 Heisman Trophy
winner loves it.
"I don't think he should
dampen the expectations, but
he should embrace the expecta-
tions," Woodson said in an phone
interview with the Daily last
week. "From everything I have
read about Jabrill, he is a very
confident player, and you bring
that confidence to the next level.
It's good to have expectations,

his ability to contribute on both
sides of the ball, it is inevitable for
Wolverine fans to draw compari-
sons to Woodson.
Peppers will have his fair share
of mistakes early on, and teams
will certainly throw his way. But
when this happens, Peppers will
still think he's better than his
opponent and shrug off his mis-
take.
"My mindset is that Ihave been
playing this game my whole life,"
Peppers said. "I know what I got
to do, my coaches explain to me
the game plan, so if I am making
a mistake, it's on me, and I don't
want to chalk it up as a freshman
mistake."
Michigan defensive coordina-
tor Greg Mattison recruited Pep-
pers as a cornerback, but it willbe
hard to keep the offensive mon-
ster off the field - something ex-
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr had a
hard time doing with Woodson,
"My main focus was defense,"
Woodson said. "But Lloyd Carr
always let me know that if my
defense ever slacked off, even a
little bit, then he would take me
off of offense. That always made
me work that much harder and
make sure that whatever was
asked of me on defense that I got
it done."
Carr's tactics worked wonders
for Woodson. At the end of the
1997 season, Woodson became
the first defensive player ever to
win the Heisman Trophy.
Will Peppers have a similar
role? He certainly wants to. But
like Woodson said, players can't
get ahead of themselves.
SY OF TIM MACDONALD Many Wolverine fans want
t roster. Peppers to be an all-purpose
player, but before he can do that,
*** he needs to find a primary role.
"I love (playing both ways),"
verwhelming suc- Peppers said. "I love being able to
needed a change have as many big-impact plays on
ball-before-every- the game as I possibly can. I defi-
The football sys- nitely would love doing that, but
sco was too much first I want make sure that I'm
mpting Peppers to fully committed and understand
other New Jersey the defense and what coach Mat-
'aramus Catholic, tison is trying to do before they
cademics over ath- start moving me around to the
e that should suit offensive side of the ball.
higan. "I'm all for it and want to do it
ely enjoying my and try to make as many plays as I
," Peppers said. "I possibly can."

COURTES
Jabrill Peppers comes into Michigan as a freshman next year but already has higher expectations than most of the players on Michigan's curren

and I see him coming in ready
to perform and live up to what Starting for Don Bosco Pre-
everyone thinks." paratory is an honor. The foot-
ball factory in Ramsey, N.J., has
*** churned out dozens of Division

I players. The school has a mil-
itary-like setup with its players
working their way up, learning
from the upperclassmen along
the way and earning a starting
varsity spot by junior or senior
year. But Peppers wasn't about
conformity. He ran a 4.4 40-yard
dash and won the state champi-
onship for the 100-and 200-meter
race. More impressively, though,
was his ability to cut without los-
ing any of his record-breaking
speed.
So Peppers broke the status
quo and was
thrown into a
starting role as fh A T look
a freshman. At I O
the time, Don 1
Bosco was the to seeinj
No. 1 team in t
the state and the ma
played long- blu
time rival, No.
4 St. Peter's, in -
the state semi-
final. Regional
supremacy was on the line.
St. Peter's had a simple game
plan: exploit the 15-year-old
freshman corner and throw his
way all game. After all, on the
other side of the field was one of
the state's best cornerbacks, cur-
rent Colorado defensive back Yuri
Wright.
But it didn't take long for
St. Peter's to
reconsider its '
original plan. CC T don
In the first ...I dUI.
quarter, Pep- cha]
pers scored to
on an 87-yard as a fr
blocked field-
goal return. mist"
In the second
quarter, he
intercepted
a pass and
returned the ball 94 yards for a
touchdown. Don Bosco won eas-
ily, 37-0. Fans and coaches alike
were sold. And any questions of
Peppers's ability were thrown
away.
"That game put me on the
map," Peppers said in a phone
interview. "That was definitely
the game breaker that put me
over the top."
And behind Peppers's heroic
plays, Don Bosco went on to win
the state title. The expectations
to perform continued into his
sophomore season, but no matter
howlargetheywere, Peppers pro-
duced. In his sophomore year, he
scored 22 offensive touchdowns
and accumulated over 1,000
total yards, leading his school to
another state championship.

Despite the o
cess, Peppersi
from the foot
thing culture.'
tem at Don Bo
to handle, pro
transfer to ano
high school, P
which values at
letics - a valu
him well at Mic
"I'm definit
life a lot better

forward
g him in
ize and
some coaches ge
themselves rath
producing youn
the field."
Even though
culture didn't
him anymore, t
whatever team
would win. He
best player in N
t want
Lk it up
shman
ake."
at every positio
pers's talent, itc
ter. He eclipsedl
yards and tallie
en route to his ti
onship. Pepper
in the title game
for 212 yards an
37-34 win over
Once again, P
the lofty expect
Though he
mainly for def
Peppers's high
reel shows an
on. Just two
pers broke 10 to
a 30-yard touc
ended up beingl
of the weekend

got a group of
guys around ***
me that want
to see me suc- Though he hasn't yet gradu-
ceed not only ated high school, many already
on the football expect him to secure intercep-
field, but also tions and record countless tack-
off of it. Win- les. Such immense pressure can
ning is impor- be detrimental, but if history is
tant here, but any indication, Peppers will far
it's not the exceed the benchmarks set for
only important him.
thing. I think Woodson made it clear that the
et caught up with tradition of Michigan football,
ser than actually combined with Hoke's coaching
g men on and off style, will help Peppers immense-
ly. Hoke was an assistant when
the Don Bosco Woodson played, so the corner-
mean much to back is very familiar with Hoke's
he idea was that coachingstyle.
he suited up for "Coach Hoke is a guythat truly
was simply the and genuinely cares about the
Jew Jersey, virtu- players," Woodson said. "He will
ally impossible treat him like a young man and
to tackle due allow him to grow naturally. He
to his explo- will allow the assistant coaches
sive speed to coach him up and develop him
and knack for into the player he can be."
breaking tack- Having grown up a Michigan
les. fan, Peppers wants to be the play-
But main- er fans remember forever with
taining the suc- the likes of Tom Harmon, Ger-
cess wouldn't ald Ford, Bennie Oosterbaan and
be easy. Gone Desmond Howard. He wants to
was the Divi- be able to come to Michigan and
sion I talent see his legacy continue vicarious-
n. But with Pep- ly through a Michigan Legends
didn't really mat- uniform.
1,500 all-purpose On whether he could be bet-
d 22 touchdowns ter than Woodson, Peppers had a
hird state champi- clear answer: "Absolutely. I want
s was paramount to be the best player to ever wear
rushing 19 times that maize and blue."
1d two scores in a Peppers's cockiness didn't
Bergen Catholic, bother Woodson. Instead, it made
eppers exceeded him happy knowing players with
ations. Peppers's confidence will suit up
for Michigan.
*** "I look forward to seeing him
in the maize and blue," Woodson
was recruited said. "Hopefully he can help our
ensive purposes, team out."
-school highlight Expectations come with every
offensive weap- recruit for Michigan. But Pep-
nonths ago, Pep- pers's have been astronomi-
ackles en route to cally greater. When will these
hdown run that die down? What if a great career
ESPN's No. 1 play doesn't eclipse Woodson's?
. And because of When is it enough?

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