BRADENTON, Fla. – Jabrill Peppers can do it all on the football field.
In his first full season as a Wolverine, Peppers played safety, cornerback, return man, running back, quarterback and even fullback, earning Big Ten Freshman of the year honors for his play.
Now, entering his redshirt sophomore campaign at Michigan, Peppers is lining up at new position in U-M’s first two practices of spring camp – SAM linebacker.
Why? Well, it keeps the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder on the field at all times, says first year defensive coordinator Don Brown, who spoke to the media today after U-M’s practice at IMG Academy.
“That’s the beauty of it,” Brown said of leaving Peppers on the field. “We had a package today where he is in technically as a linebacker. So you may think you are going to get one alignment, but we can do completely different stuff.
“Who says he has to be in there playing that position? Today he was. But two days from now he may not. So that’s how we roll with that.”
Peppers finished last season with 45 tackles and 10 pass break ups. But this year, along with Noah Furbush, Peppers will be focusing more on playing SAM linebacker says Brown.
“Between Furbush and (Peppers), I think we can put those two guys together and create some dynamic ability out of that position. That’s what you are searching for,” said Brown.
Regardless, Brown says he’s just trying to find a way to utilize Peppers more where he can make plays at the line of scrimmage.
“I just think we have to give this guy a bunch of jobs,” Brown said of Peppers. “He’s a dynamic athlete. We’ll keep him around the line of scrimmage and let him do a bunch of stuff. Whether it’s covering or in certain personal groups playing linebacker type stuff.”
Adding: “He’s sharp. He’s a great. He’s fun to work with. He’s got juice. I like guys like that. He gets you excited going to work everyday.”
Running a 4-3 scheme
In 2015 U-M ran a 4-3 defense that played a ton of man coverage on the outside.
That’s still the plan in 2016, however, with a little twist says Brown.
“We’ll start with the four down (lineman) scheme, but we are not exclusively that,” Brown said. “We’ll do it all. We’ll play a lot of man (coverage) tight. But we will also play some other things. That’s the new piece. And that’s the learning piece.”
Brown noted the loss of graduated seniors, but was quick to add his positive impressions of U-M’s group of linebackers he inherited.
“But I am really excited about the guys that I have,” Brown said. “I think Ben Gedeon has stepped up. Furbush is doing a good job. (Peppers) is doing a good job. Really happy with (Mike) McCray, I think probably for the first time in his career he is healthy. I’m liking what I am seeing.”
“This is a system where I think it is friendly to the linebackers,” Brown said. “It’s aggressive in nature. So they will do a lot of different stuff. But based on their learning curve, we’ll just kind of adjust to them.”