Jabrill Peppers has a handful of practice reps to his credit, but he was easily the most talked about--or at least thought about--player during Michigan's media day.
For nearly a year, Wolverines fans and writers have praised the New Jersey Kid's athletic ability. But the real hype didn't start until the 6'1", 205-pound ATH committed to the Wolverines. All of the sudden, coach Brady Hoke had a Charles Woodson clone on his hands.
Entering the fall, the 5-star is the No. 3 corner and is slated to operate within the nickel. In all likelihood, he'll quickly move up the ranks and become a regular. Of course, the coaching staff and players did a good job of tempering the hype. I've always liked Peppers, but I've remained somewhat grounded when projecting what he'll do and when he'll start: Maybe a little in a handful of games, nothing groundbreaking.
But that all changed once I moved over to Greg Mattison's "section" on Sunday. The fourth-year defensive coordinator, at least in my eyes, seemed giddy while discussing the potential of his recruit. Now don't get me wrong: Mattison, who's coached NFL superstars, said that Peppers was "just another guy" on the depth chart, which is true.
But he smiled when talking about Peppers. You-know-what-eating grins. Not just obligatory smiles and nods. It appeared that he was trying his best not to burst out and say, "OK, guys. This kid is going to be as good or better as you expect. He's one-in-a-million." He'd never say that, not right now anyway.
But back to Mattison's joy. He was seriously excited on Sunday. Maybe because it was media day. Maybe because the atmosphere was fun and light. Everyone seemed genuinely happy for the start of the season, which, for all intents and purposes, begins on media day (at least for media).
But then I watched Mattison's interview with the Big Ten Network, which was in Ann Arbor on Monday to highlight the Wolverines as part of its conference tour. With a grin stretching from ear to ear, and body language to match, Mattison was visibly energized when Peppers was mentioned.
Maybe I'm reading too much into things. Or maybe Mattison is bursting inside, counting down the days until he plugs Jabrill into the defense.
I would feel the same if I were a defensive coordinator, I suppose. Plus Mattison has a rock-solid secondary to begin with--Peppers is the finishing touch. What's not to like about that? He could put all 5'9/10", 155 pounds of me at corner and still field an all-conference-worthy backfield.
And I think that Mattison knows that. Either that, or I'm a terrible reader of body language and totally whiffed while trying to read between the lines.
Peppers will play. He'll play soon. Don't expect Heisman antics off the bat, but get ready to see the opening act of what could very well be a storied career.