And so far the freshman is living up to hype.
Just last week, U-M coach Brady Hoke announced that Peppers had won the job as the primary punt returner. Today, the former Paramus (N.J.) Catholic standout was listed as the first-team nickel back as Michigan gets ready for its home opener this Saturday versus Appalachian State.
Peppers talent is evident, but his willingness to be part of the team is what is sticking out, according to defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
“Jabrill has come in and bought in right away,” Mattison said. “He’s bought into playing the scheme to try to do what [assistant coaches Roy Manning and Curt Mallory] are trying to do in the backend. He has played tremendously fast. He’s played with great confidence. He is a very confident young man.”
However, Mattison admits his budding star still has some growing pains.
“There is always things you got to work on,” Mattison said. “You got to work on making sure you are doing it right every time. Making sure you are focused every time. But every practice he comes out with great energy. He loves to play the game of football. He loves Michigan. And so far with everything we’ve done in practice, he’s really been what we’ve thought he would be.”
Hoke echoed Mattison’s comments, saying Peppers was prepared for the big stage of Michigan before he ever stepped foot on campus, which was a big reason behind him being named the starting punt returner.
"He's done a lot even before he got here on big stages,” Hoke said. “When you run track on a national level, and see how he led Paramus Catholic as a football player, and watching him over the course of the last 20-something days practice, field punts, be in those situations, the confidence that he has -- gives me confidence."
Peppers, who stands at 6-foot-1, 202-pounds, has already earned a reputation as one of the better athletes on the team.
“I just think he is a really good athlete,” firth year senior quarterback Devin Gardner said of Peppers. “Him and [Devin] Funchess are probably the top two athletes on the team far as athletic ability goes. I guess that’s pretty much it. I kind of get pissed a little bit, I kind of like to think I was a top athlete growing up on my teams when I was younger. But these two guys are pretty – pretty elite.”
Funchess praised his defensive counterpart.
“He has a lot of instincts,” Funchess said of Peppers. “A lot of football I.Q. out there that I think is great for a young player to come in with that type of knowledge. He just made plays in camp and I was like ‘wow.’ It’s amazing to just come in as a freshman.”