Officially on campus since the end of June and now days from reporting for his first camp as a college athlete, the Peppers hype is alive and well, if not out of control at times depending on the source.
While it’s more than possible Peppers will impact Michigan’s secondary right away in 2014, Brady Hoke wants to slow things down a bit for his star pupil, knowing exactly when it’ll be time to heap significant praise down.
“Let's anoint him when he does something, right?” Hoke said. “I mean, let's see what he can do.”
As soon as Aug. 30 hits, the college football world will be able to pass judgment on Peppers but the question is at what position.
While Peppers leaves high school ranked as the No. 1 cornerback prospect in the nation and No. 3 overall player in the country, his future could be at multiple positions, most likely beginning at nickel.
“That hasn't changed,” Hoke said. “The plan hasn't changed. I think we've got to be careful about anointing any true freshmen starting their college career, but that's where he will start.”
Whether or not Peppers ends up staying at nickel remains to be seen, very possible he ends up in the mix at safety next to junior Jarrod Wilson.
Either way, don’t expect to hear much from Peppers this fall, most of his talking will come in the trash variety on the field, not in front of the cameras and microphones of a press conference.
“The one thing about Jabrill is he is an unbelievably grounded young man,” Hoke said. “You’re recruiting guys and you’re the best player in the country, whatever, so it’s all those things that are attached that are there.
“Are we excited and glad that he’s a Michigan Wolverine? No doubt about it. Are we excited about what we’ll be able to see over the next couple of weeks? No doubt about it. I don’t know if it’s fair for an 18 year old or 17 year old, even though those kids, because of their abilities, and they all like that attention to some degree, to say he’s going to do this and be that, I don’t think that’s fair.
“And am I going to be out front with him and shield him from the pressure he can put on himself? No question. He’s not going to talk to the media a lot, I can promise you that. I want the kid to be a student athlete at Michigan.”
As someone who has been able to workout with and compete against Peppers in non-padded situations this summer, Michigan senior quarterback Devin Gardner sees the potential and raw ability the freshman possesses.
If Hoke wanted expectations tempered publically, Gardner missed the memo on that one.
“Jabrill Peppers is as advertised,” Gardner said. “He’s a really good athlete and the thing I like the most -- I haven’t really seen him as a player so I don’t know how he is at learning the defense and knowing where he has to be and things like that -- but as far as being a competitor and wanting to get better and being a great athlete, he’s up there with the best I’ve ever seen.
“He’s one of the ultimate competitors that I’ve ever seen so I enjoy that and it brings this fire and intensity to our team that we definitely, definitely need.”
A running back and wide receiver as well at Paramus (N.J.) Catholic, Peppers could eventually be a factor offensively assuming he can pick up his assignments quickly defensively.
Though Gardner loves Peppers’ skill set, he’s confident with the guys already on that side of the ball full time.
“We have a lot of good offensive guys,” Gardner said. “We’re good on offense I feel like you know, but obviously if he wants to help and Coach Hoke lets him help, that’s up to the coaches. But I feel like he’s going to be a defensive player and a good one.”
Time will ultimately tell just how much Peppers will have on his plate in 2014 but Hoke added anything, including a role offensively and at punt returner, could be on the table.
“We’ll entertain anything that can help Michigan win but at the same time let’s get him grounded in what he’s doing and what his primary job will be,” he said.