As starting lineups were being announced via the big screens in either end zone, true freshman Jabrill Peppers popped up introducing himself to the crowd in what would be his first start at cornerback.
It wasn’t meant to be though.
Peppers did play Saturday after missing the second half of the opener against Appalachian State and all of Michigan’s loss at Notre Dame due to an ankle injury, but No. 5 ultimately did not make the start.
Asked about that Monday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke didn’t have much of an explanation, not that it’s a huge deal either way.
“Well, you know depth charts are what they are to be honest with you,” Hoke said. “We compete and challenge all the way through, he had a great week, it’s just the way things went.”
In three quarters of extended action for Peppers, Michigan put him as a straight split corner on the outside as redshirt junior Blake Countess slid over the slot to the nickel some, at other times utilizing an outside linebacker, with sophomore Jourdan Lewis primarily at the other corner.
Peppers would go on to make three tackles in the Michigan win looking prepared, aware of his responsibilities in coverage and capable of handling the moment.
Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison gave Peppers that endorsement Monday after lauding the entire secondary for a better performance than the one put forward at Notre Dame a week prior.
“Jabrill showed during the week that he was working really hard at it and I think he did the same thing in the game,” Mattison said.
That could change though as Hoke left open the possibility Peppers could see time in that capacity this week.
“I think number one there’s a chance that will happen,” Hoke said. “I think him and Dennis and Darboh have been the three guys we’ve used most of the time.
“Obviously we went to the two return guys because of the rugby punts, one short, one a little deeper and really having Fleet be the guy in control and the experienced guy short, I thought was important. I know Darboh hasn’t had a lot of experience but he’s been on the field in games so, we thought that was important to do.
Adding more on Peppers and his progress, Hoke said, “I thought Jabrill held up pretty well. I think it’s a learning process every time he goes out from a leverage or playing bump or playing off or playing middle third, whatever it might be, I think every time he plays he’ll get better. He’s very instinctive, which I think is a plus.”