Now two days in and just three away from taking the field in St. Petersburg, Peppers is drawing comparisons to a former Under Armour All-American that dominated wide receivers back in 2009.
“He reminded me of Greg Reid,” Peppers’ position coach Don Cox said. “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.”
Reid was rated the No. 7 cornerback in the class of 2009 and went on to play at Florida State before being kicked off the team in 2012 for a violation of team rules. Reid was listed at 5-foot-8, 168-pounds his senior season at Valdosta (Ga.) high school.
Given that Peppers already stands 6-0, 190-pounds with the ability to hit and move from sideline to sideline as well as any player in attendance, Cox believes corner might not be the ultimate destination for the five-star New Jersey native.
“He’s going to be a safety,” Cox said. “He’s so big and he’s going to probably put five more, ten more pounds of muscle on him.
“He’s going to be a strong safety but if not he’s going to be a hybrid, rover in somebody’s defensive backfield.”
In order to play cornerback at the next level, where he’ll likely take the most reps in his first year on campus at Michigan, Cox is looking to see some improvement outside of Peppers’ propensity for physical play and athletic gifts.
“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.”
Motivated and excited to vie for a starting spot in his true freshman season in Ann Arbor Cox warns against putting too much pressure on his own shoulders noting a significant difference from prep school football to division one, major college football for Peppers.
“That’s going to be an adjustment,” Cox said. “Understanding that he’s going to go against other guys that are as aggressive as him.
“See, in high school, I can tell you right now, he was the big dog in the park -- nobody can mess with him. College now, he’s going to find corners and safeties that are just as hard, just as aggressive, and his fundamentals got to take charge.
“Right now it’s pure athletic ability, pure aggression, in college it’s your fundamentals and understanding your defensive concept.”