Class of 2014
Since this is my first post, I’d like to explain a little bit how I’m going to be doing these film breakdowns. With each position, there are certain traits that those players must have in order to make them a complete football player. What I’ve done is picked out traits that I think are most important specific to positions as well as traits that are important to every position on the field. For example, Coverage is a trait that is vital to players that play in the back seven, but for offensive players, it has no value. On the flip side, Body is something that is important to every position on the field. Having the right size on the field can differ based on scheme and position, but the importance of it doesn’t change. Hopefully that’s simple enough, and if not, it should become clearer as you keep reading.
Alright, now let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Jabrill Peppers is an absolute freak. He’s one of those special talents that only come around every few years, and every school in the country is clamoring to get his signature. He’s a winner, plain and simple. Every year he’s been in high school he’s lead his team to a state title. It’s not just staying at one dominant program either, he started at Don Bosco Prep and won his first two there, and then after his sophomore season he transferred to Paramus Catholic where he would go on to win two more state championships. Jabrill has the skill to be elite on both sides of the ball at RB, WR, CB, or S. Let that sink in. He is one of the hardest people to tackle in the country and has also been raved about by every coach/media member that watches him. Just recently, he participated in the Under Armour All-America game and his coach, none other than former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards, called him the best high school DB he’s ever seen. Remember Vernon Hargreaves? The same Vernon Hargreaves that dominated in this same game last year, locked up receivers in the practices leading up to it, and was named First Team All-SEC after his freshman season at Florida? Yeah, well apparently Jabrill is better. Suck it SEC.
Jabrill has the size already that has college and even NFL scouts drooling. It’s truly rare when you can find a big corner of his size, but can also move with the fluidity and speed that Peppers does. One big aspect of this is that he doesn’t have an ounce of bad weight on him. Many high school prospects will come in with a lot of work to do in the weight room, either to put on weight or to cut bad weight, but Peppers already looks the part of a college corner.
This is where Peppers really separates himself from the pack. He has the versatility to dominate as any skill position on offense as well as any defensive position in the back seven. If that doesn’t speak to his remarkable athleticism, I don’t know what on earth would. Right now, Peppers is being recruited on the defensive side of the ball by Michigan, but in the future he could definitely have an impact on the offensive side of the ball as well. On film, he has the quick feet to stick with receivers and also leave defenders wondering why they’re diving into a whole lot of air, the strength to run over defenders and to plow through ball carriers, and the ups to either reel in a jump ball or break it up. Two-way athleticism at its finest folks.
Many skill position players also bring their talents to the track, and Jabrill not only brings those with him, but also his winning ways. His junior season, he won the state title for the 100 and 200 meter dashes and nearly rewrote the record books, narrowly missing the mark by only tenths of a second. This speed is put to great use on the gridiron because it helps him stick with receivers running deep routes, and if he gets the ball in the open field, you hear the fat lady belting out her favorite tunes. Nobody’s catching him from behind.
Nitpicking at it’s finest. Jabrill’s highlight tape is full of him absolutely crushing kids that are unlucky enough to be carrying the ball. Big hits make football that much more fun. However, a lot of times when players try to deliver that big, Sportscenter-type hit, they fail to wrap up. This is a big no-no in tackling. In high school, Peppers can get away with it because he’s bigger and stronger than everyone else, but once he reaches the next level, there are going to be certain players that have the balance and power to bounce off of those types of hits. Wrapping up on tackles is becoming a lost art in the modern era of football and it leads to more and more missed tackles. On Jabrill’s tape, there are plenty of instances where he, indeed, does wrap up and drive the ball carrier to the ground, but there are also times where he doesn’t, and that is the only thing that worries me, his consistency. We all love watching the big hit, but when Jabrill can bring his power (GOOD GRAVY he can rock people) while also bringing his arms with him to wrap up, people will think twice about bringing the ball to his side. Again, I don’t see this as a huge issue in his game right now, but it’s easy to fall into bad habits, especially since it’s a lot easier to get away with things like that in high school. Again, it’s just nitpicking, people.
Run Support: A+
Now, I know run support and tackling seem very similar, because in truth they are. The way I’m looking at it though, is a bit different. What I’m grading this is on is the ability to shed blocks, pursue the ball carrier, and recognize the play. I absolutely love Peppers’ instincts and play recognition on the defensive side of the ball. He is used as a LB, CB, and S, so he can make plays all over the field. As a LB and S he fills the hole hard and normally doesn’t allow for extra yardage, and he recognizes the play very quickly as well. One thing that stuck out to me when he plays CB is that he gets his hands on the receiver first. When a receiver comes out of his stance, he’s either going to run a route or come out to block. If the corner can get his hands on the receiver first, it becomes clear what he wants to do. When he’s coming to block, he’ll stay engaged with the corner, trying to keep him out of the play, but if he’s running a route, he’ll try and shed the corner and get back into his route. Peppers does a great job of reading his receiver, finding the ball, and taking great angles to make the play.
Many of Jabrill’s defensive highlights are of him making big hits, so making a read on coverage, particularly man coverage, was a little tougher. As a LB and S, Jabrill is asked to play a lot of zone, and that is definitely an area where he excels. He has quick fluid hips that allow him to turn and run with any receiver that gets in his zone, and he has the awareness to know who’s in his zone and who to pass off. In man coverage, there wasn’t as much of a sampling, but he still flips his hips well in order to turn and run, and he definitely has the speed and agility to stick with anyone. When Herm Edwards lauds you as the best high school DB he’s ever seen, there’s not too much to argue with, he definitely has the potential of a lock-down corner.
Ball Skills: A+
Peppers is just one of the players that has a nose for the football. Whether it’s on offense or defense, when the ball is in the air, he’s going to come down with it or it’s going to the ground so the opposing player doesn’t. He has the ability to be able to time jump balls perfectly and, even though he’s no Spud Webb, he definitely has the jumping ability to climb the ladder and go get it. In zone and man coverages, he makes great breaks on the ball, whether it’s getting there before the receiver does and picking it off or being able to time a hit and break up the pass.
Football IQ: A+
This is one of the hardest traits for me to grade out based on film because it’s not as tangible as the others. Things like reading your keys, staying disciplined on assignments, and getting in position to make the play are things that I look for. Peppers is seemingly always in position to make a play for his team, and that makes him such a valuable asset because he knows where to be and what to do to make that play. He reads his keys, recognizes from there whether it’s a run or a pass, and then finds his assignment and sticks to it. These are all signs of an incredibly disciplined and well-prepared football player. One play sticks out to me the most though and it wasn’t on the defensive side of the ball. In his senior highlight tape, Peppers is lined up at WR and is tasked with stalk blocking the CB over him. Once the QB dumps the ball off to the RB, he takes off towards the corner of the endzone. Peppers is midblock, but realizes there is a more immediate threat to the ball carrier, so he disengages quickly and then pancakes the only defender that had a decent angle to make the play. Result of the play: Touchdown. It’s those kind of plays that assure my thoughts that Jabrill Peppers is an incredibly smart football player and knows how to put himself, as well as his teammates, in position to make plays.
Jabrill Peppers has the potential to be a program changing player for Michigan. He’s the highest rated recruit to take the field for the Wolverines in years, and he’s done more than enough to solidify himself in that top group of elite prospects. The major thing that worries me is all the hype that is surrounding him. Too many people are expecting him to be the immediate savior of the program after it’s most recent, disappointing season. Does he have the talent to lead and help change this program? Absolutely. Is he still only going to be a freshman next Fall? Yes. The learning curve from high school football to D1 college football is steep, and mistakes are going to be made along the way. The good news is that Jabrill has the work ethic and drive to really perfect his craft and become the best player he can be. He wants to be the best ever and he has the mindset and determination that will make his fellow teammates want to follow him. This is one of Michigan’s most important pickups in the Class of 2014, and I can’t wait to seem him suit up in a winged helmet.
Thank you fans for the read, comment any thoughts, feedback, or questions, and Go Blue!