When Jim Harbaugh met with reporters on Tuesday to discuss his team heading into fall camp, it was only natural that he was asked specifically about one of the most electrifying players he inherited on roster this season.
One of the bigger questions surrounding redshirt freshman safety Jabrill Peppers, other than his health, is whether he will see offensive snaps this fall.
While Harbaugh remained largely non-committal about the idea, he did mention that there is a possibility it could happen in the future.
“Yeah there is a possibility,” Harbaugh told reporters. “Jabrill is Jabrill. Every individual has the capability athletically of doing that and if they have the desire to do that then we would explore that.”
If offensive and defensive duties weren’t enough for Peppers, there’s a possibility for a third to be added as well.
The Wolverines will be needing special teams help this season, especially in kick returns if Dennis Norfleet’s absence turns permanent, and Peppers has the athleticism to fit the mold.
However, Harbaugh realizes the paucity of three-way players in college football.
“It is rare that someone does offense, defense and special teams, the three way, the rare three way player,” Harbaugh said. “It’s exciting when somebody is capable of doing that, what does that entail. They have some real gifts athletically in terms of football and they’re really smart, really sharp to understand three different systems.”
Despite all of this talk about the many roles Peppers could see this season, he’s only just a redshirt freshman going through his second head coach and defensive system in two years.
There’s always a worry about overloading a young player with too much information or schematics. Not for Peppers, as Harbaugh continues to see his confidence rise every day.
“Jabrill has never struck me as somebody who’s ever seen his head spin,” Harbaugh said. “He is not one of those types of youngsters. He has a very good, tight grip of his mind. He is very sharp, very focused. I’ve never seen him not confident. He’s very confident, his preparation and his ability.”
Injury status of the Drake’s
While the team has remained relatively healthy through the spring heading into fall camp, the team should be preparing to welcome back members of the offense that suffered significant injuries last season.
Drake Harris, who missed his freshman season due to a lingering hamstring issue, and Drake Johnson, who tore his ACL against Ohio State in the final game of the season, are both expected to be participating in fall camp.
Johnson was one of the offensive surprises from a year ago. Working his way back from an ACL injury the year prior, he took advantage of a depleted backfield and worked his way to a starting role towards the end of the season.
Whether or not he’ll be in game shape by week one is still in the air according to Harbaugh.
“I’m not making a prediction,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not a doctor and I’m not Drake. There is a process that he’s going through and he’s working extremely hard. It’s going very well in my coach opinion.”
Status of Dennis Norfleet
Another lingering question surrounding the Michigan program is whether Norfleet will see the field again.
After being suspended earlier in the summer, the program has remained mum on whether he can return to the football field in the fall. Harbaugh shed some light on the situation regarding the two parties.
“A plan was put into place for Dennis to where he could accomplish all of his goals athletically and academically,” Harbaugh said. “Our desire is that he gets his Michigan degree and that plan hadn’t changed from our viewpoint in the conversations that I’ve had with Dennis.
That’s where it stands.”
Reports surfaced that Tuskegee, a D-II school in Alabama, received clearance by the program for Norfleet to transfer if the opportunity arises. Harbaugh confirmed that Norfleet has been granted a release and can talk to “any school.”
At the end of the day, unless things have changed, Harbaugh expects the plan between him and Norfleet to be executed.
“As I said, a plan was put in place,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve had a conversation and if that has changed, you’ll have to talk to Dennis. A plan was put into place. It is our desire that he remains at Michigan and he gets his Michigan degree.”