ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—In a game where the outcome is about as important as the color socks I have on inside my Sperry’s, Michigan’s four commitments competed well in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game despite taking one in the loss column as a team.
Five-star defensive back Jabrill Peppers and quarterback Wilton Speight were both named captains and started the game for Team Nitro, both taking snaps out of the shotgun on their first offensive possession.
When watching, re-watching or reading about each of the future Wolverines’ performances in this game it’s important to remember this is one game and a game they had less than a week to prep for. The four practices leading up to the game were a much better indication of where these young men are as players and prospects.
Here’s a closer look at all four performances Thursday:
Jabrill Peppers: Not a dominant performance as maybe some were hoping for or expecting but Peppers physical ability, skill, instinct and versatility shown through prominently. Peppers was tested early and rose to the challenge after allowing the first completion of the game to his side playing off coverage because press coverage isn’t allowed in the Under Armour All-America Game. Following that, Peppers was in tight coverage in the end zone on a ball that sailed over his head, showing good discipline to not lose his man when the play broke down. Peppers missed a tackle on a wide receiver screen to the outside but overall played well in coverage. Peppers came in at quarterback on Nitro’s first offensive possession, handing the ball off before completing a screen pass that fell short on fourth down.
Wilton Speight: Speight had a very positive day running the offense despite Nitro being unable to punch the ball in the end zone in the red zone. After Speight’s first pass attempt of the game flew into the turf, he took charge and led them down the field with his arm. Showing good feel in a collapsing pocket Speight rolled out to his right and threw a very accurate ball to a receiver over the middle of the field. Speight had another well-thrown pass on a go route down the right sideline, setting up Nitro deep in Team Highlight territory. Speight’s arm isn’t going to wow with velocity but throwing a catchable football is his game and he showcased great command of the offense. Speight’s only blemish came on an interception in the end zone, of which he said after the game was a “miscommunication” not to mention his receiver falling down toward the end of his route. Speight arrives in Ann Arbor Sunday and after a strong week of practice in Florida, is ready to dive right into things in preparation for spring football.
Bryan Mone: Double teamed on nearly every play by a center and guard combination, Mone did his job simply eating up both of them and not allowing the line of scrimmage to be pushed back. Obviously the next step will be shedding those double teams from time to time to possibly make a play himself but Mone’s strength is a real asset at this stage in his development. The most important aspect of Mone’s performance in the game itself was his constant effort. Routinely being pushed to the left as the running back ran off the tackle to the right, Mone kept his feet moving and eyes on the football in pursuit. The play may have been made for him but Mone was often standing right over the running back down field ready to make a tackle if he had remained on his feet.
Juwan Bushell-Beatty: Rotating in and out but receiving a good portion of snaps in the second half Bushell-Beatty competed well against a loaded defensive line for Team Highlight. Admittedly giving up one sack, Bushell-Beatty was at his best in run blocking situations, able to put his full body into someone and push them back or kick out to the right. With Bushell-Beatty and his growing profile as a recruit it can be very easy to forget he’s only played football for three seasons, speaking to his potential and what he could end up as once he arrives in Ann Arbor. Bushell-Beatty will need time to develop but this week of practice and interaction with a coach that played the position in the NFL could prove to be huge as he focuses up for his freshman year.