ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Greg Jackson spoke with what looked like a football shaped sparkle in his eye.
Asked what makes Peppers such a special player, Jackson ran through a proverbial checklist of skills the New Jersey native is mastering already.
“I expect to see him communicate in the secondary, which he does with no problem,” Jackson said. “I expect him to hustle to the football, which he does with no problem. I expect to see him get his hands on balls; he does that with no problem. I expect him to play the deep middle of the field; he does that great. He tackles great.
“He does everything you ask him to do and he does much more. Pep is the type of player that’s not going to get relaxed because he’s got that fire within.”
Peppers’ first season in Ann Arbor was cut short due to a lingering ankle injury suffered in the season opener against Appalachian State.
This spring however, Peppers is using the 15 practices to make up for lost time and making an impact on Michigan’s defense.
Singled out for constantly playing with energy, whether it be on the practice field or inside Michigan Stadium, Jackson notes he has zero issue with his players performing with passion.
“I’m fine with it,” Jackson said. “As long as he doesn’t get out of control with it I’m fine with it. Everybody has a different way of playing the football game. Some guys are quiet and terrors on the football field. Some guys are loud and can back it up, some guys are loud but can’t.
“He’s the type of guy that backs everything up. He’s a guy that talks a lot but he backs everything up. And the thing is about Pep, he’s not talking just to talk, he’s talking to energize the team and himself, to make guys play better. Everything he does is positive.”
Including a switch from cornerback to safety.
Making the move official this spring, Peppers is transitioning well according to his position coach, at a spot where the 6-foot-1, 205-pound athlete can make his mark for the Wolverines.
“You always look at a player and think about where he best fits and we think Pep best fits at the safety position just because of who he is and what he brings,” Jackson said. “It’s almost like, if you put him at corner, he’s out there and you don’t really see him.
“He’s the type of player that can cover on the inside, play the deep middle of the field, tackle on the inside; he can play all over the field. But he can be an impact player for us by playing the safety and nickel positions.”
A position switch, nearly completely new coaching staff, and a different defensive philosophy, adding in the fact that Peppers could be playing two positions, may seem like too much for an 19 year old to handle.
Normally scary for coaches throwing an inexperienced player out there as the last line of defense, Jackson says think again.
“When you’re out there on the field you don’t even think about that with Jabrill,” Jackson said. “It’s funny you say that cause it’s like he doesn’t even play like a freshman. He’s experienced out there.
“And the funny thing is everybody looks up to him when he’s out there. He plays with a passion, he’s tough, he knows what he’s doing, and he’s always around the football. What more can you ask for from a guy like Jabrill?”
Michigan of course hopes Peppers’ prowess defensively contributes to more wins once the 2015 season officially arrives.