Jabrill Peppers is in strange territory right now.
Does he have a limitless ceiling, or is he being set up for failure?
The Paramus Catholic (N.J.) prodigy has already been compared to Charles Woodson, perhaps the greatest player to ever suit up for the Wolverines. In 1997, Woodson led Michigan to a national title with his magnificent two-way play.
He was effective as a receiver, but all the more deadly as an All-American and Heisman Trophy-winning cornerback.
Woodson headlined one of the greatest secondaries in Big Ten history. He’s second in career interceptions with 22 and is one of three members of the mid-to-late 1990s corps of outstanding defensive backs to be listed in Michigan’s career top 10.
To this day, Woodson remains the only college football player to win the Heisman as a primarily defensive player. He went on to an All-Pro NFL career and was an elite cover man.
His glory at Michigan catapulted him to incredible pro stardom.
What may be even more incredible is the fact that Peppers hasn’t only been compared to Woodson, but he’s essentially been christened as the next Woodson.
Those born-to-play talents aren’t impossible to find. Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison knows one when he sees one. He recently told Sam Webb of the Detroit News that he sees a lot of Woodson in Peppers.
"He compared me to (Woodson) a lot actually, but my goal is that I want to be better than Charles Woodson," Peppers told the Detroit News.
Peppers is already thinking like the legendary Wolverines defender—the guy he wants to eclipse. Peppers is shooting for the moon, too.
Peppers told Webb of the Detroit News:
I definitely want the ball in my hands. My goal is to win the Heisman as a true freshman. People laugh when I say that, but that's my goal. It is not a dream because a goal is something that you can actually achieve. That's my goal — to win the Heisman as a freshman. I definitely want the ball in my hands, punt return, kick return, even if they allow me to play some offense, I'm all for it.
Peppers has been praised to no end at just about every level he’s played—and for good reason. He’s been dubbed as nothing short of a sure thing, a will-be college superstar that drops the hammer for one of the nation’s elite defenses—that being Michigan’s, should he commit.
There is no shortage of confidence, it seems, with Peppers either. By reading his interviews and watching video clips, it’s evident that he has set astronomically high standards for the average recruit.
And it’s not like he’s on his way to Ann Arbor anytime soon—his senior year of high school doesn’t start for months.
With the way that Hoke is recruiting, expectations for success grow exponentially each season. Hoke is landing top-10 classes and finding more and more ways to gain back the interest of the posh 5-star crowd.
His program’s followers sit on pins and needles, waiting to hear about the next elite prep to accept an offer.
Derrick Green was widely regarded as the best running back of the 2013 class, or at least one of two. The Hermitage High (Va.) wrecking ball epitomizes the size of position at Michigan—and so does Peppers.
At 6’0” and 220 pounds, Green could be one of the next great Wolverines running backs. But no one is comparing him to the Mike Harts, Tyrone Wheatleys, Tim Biakabutukas and the other marquee ball-carriers in Michigan’s history.
It’s bound to happen if he has a great freshman year, but Green faces less pressure than Peppers will.
And part of that is because of Peppers’ actions—he’s careening into Comparison Land, behind the wheel of his own hype machine. Comparison Land isn’t always a terrible destination, but it’s hard to start a career from there most of the time.
It’s great for Peppers to be likened to Woodson. There is no harm in that whatsoever. But Peppers may want to downplay some of the hype. College careers don’t always turn out as planned, even for the sure things. Even a top-ranked recruit can experience growing pains. Most freshmen hope to see the field and contribute to their team, not win the most prestigious individual honor in all of college football.
Those are fantastic goals. Peppers should strive to be the best that he can be. But at this time, keep in mind that he is an enthusiastic kid that’s living the life of a blue chip.
Ohio State wants him.
Alabama wants him.
Stanford wants him.
With the media attention surrounding the process, it’s easy to get caught in the web of wildness. Expect Peppers to produce wherever he chooses to play, but don’t chastise the kid if he fails to deliver. Every player dreams of winning the Heisman. Just don’t expect him to hoist it as a frosh.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers @AdamBiggers81
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