Few members of this current crop of high school senior football recruits have commanded the attention of college coaches across the country like New Jersey athlete Jabrill Peppers. The 6'1", 205-pound Paramus Catholic star is the top-ranked athlete in the 2014 class and No. 3 overall prospect, according to 247Sports composite rankings.
Peppers was already on the map as a premier player in his class before he transferred out of perennial power Don Bosco Prep following his sophomore season, when he tallied 24 touchdowns and earned honors as the U.S. Air Force National Sophomore Football Player of the Year.
The coveted two-way standout has spent the majority of his high school career fielding scholarship offers.
Peppers committed to Michigan in late May to the lament of a list of BCS programs that includes Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State, Rutgers, Stanford and Penn State.
So what kind of player is Brady Hoke getting, and why has every recruiting department in the nation been monitoring Peppers since his sophomore season? We take a closer look here, with a complete scouting report of the prodigious Garden State prospect.
When you turn on Peppers' game tape, the first thing that stands out is his aggression. Many young gifted athletes are content to rely on their speed and can fall into a habit of playing finesse football.
That's hardly the case with Peppers, who delivers the boom as a running back and defensive back.
He's likely to spend his college career in the defensive secondary, so let's focus on that aspect of his game.
The man-to-man coverage instincts and physicality Peppers displays would be enough to elevate him among the nation's elite cornerback prospects. He takes control at the line of scrimmage and maintains position with stride-for-stride smoothness that is truly special for his size.
People tend to look at 40-yard-dash times as a key indicator of quickness. Sure, Peppers' performance in the event (4.40 seconds) is impressive, but it's his ability to cut and turn without sacrificing speed at more than 200 pounds that really excites people about this young man.
He can play any position in the secondary, but strong safety is his ideal landing spot. Peppers approaches the line with the velocity of a top-flight return man and the ferocity of a blitzing linebacker.
His uncanny ability to identify pre-snap reads allows Peppers to swarm to an appropriate location on the field before an outmatched blocker can lay hands on him. This makes him an unbelievable weapon in run support and 3rd-and-short situations.
Peppers' coverage ability allows a defensive coordinator to leave him on an island if necessary. His pass-rushing capabilities give the play-caller expansive options when it's time to dial up a blitz from the edge.
Peppers is about as polished a player as you'll see at the high school level. However, no 17-year-old football player is a finished product.
He hasn't played the cornerback position extensively in high school and doesn't face speedy receivers on a consistent basis. His coverage game will require some refinement at the next level, regardless of the position he plays, particularly when it comes to peeking back at the passer while keeping tabs on a receiver.
Peppers is physical enough to assert himself at the point of attack, but he still must add another 10 to 15 pounds to his frame early in college. The extra weight will provide him with the necessary power to disengage from blockers and fill space.
Peppers provides Michigan with an immediate special teams threat as a return man. While coaches don't normally hand starting jobs to freshmen before their first training camp, it would be an upset if he doesn't seize a spot atop the depth chart prior to opening kickoff.
Aside from lending substantial support in run coverage (crucial against rival Ohio State and the spread option), he can be counted on to tally at least a few interceptions and sacks per season.
Peppers has been front and center in the national recruiting spotlight since his freshman season and could emerge as a household name in Ann Arbor, reminding many Michigan faithful of the legendary Charles Woodson.
B/R college football columnist Tyler Donohue spent three seasons with the Rutgers University football program's recruiting department, contributing to three classes (2007-09) under head coach Greg Schiano.
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