True freshmen who can make an immediate impact are rare creatures in college football, but Michigan has a few coming into the 2014 season who could become instant stars.
The Wolverines finished the 2013-14 campaign with a disappointing record of 7-6 after getting beat by Kansas State, 31-14, in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Brady Hoke's young team fell apart down the home stretch, losing five of its last six games.
These incoming freshmen could be a vital part of the team's attempt to rebound with a stronger record next season.
Jabrill Peppers, Cornerback
Hoke must be elated about having Jabrill Peppers for the 2014 season.
This kid is one of the nation's most remarkable athletes at any position. Though his career will likely be defined by his defensive prowess as a cornerback, he's a legitimate two-way player who could see time on offense next year.
ESPN.com's Tom Luginbill recently highlighted a few reasons why he calls Peppers his most impressive recruit:
He just gets it. Easily adjusts and adapts to what is asked of him. Very coachable and humble, but he knows he's good. Michigan does not have a skilled player on its team like him. ...
He is more than capable of playing both ways if needed, but as far as cover corners go, he is a more explosive version of Dee Milliner, and we love that he welcomes contact, too. He is mature and knows that there are high expectations for him to perform.
He stood out above all other players at the recent Under Armour practices, too, according to Scouts.com, as noted by Scott Bell of DallasNews.com:
Scout ranks players based on their performance this week at Under Armour Game practice. Jabrill Peppers is No. 1: http://t.co/VQcusYH0YI— Scott Bell (@sbell021) January 2, 2014
Given Michigan's defensive struggles this past season, Peppers should be an instant starter at cornerback, and you can expect him to get a crack at making some plays on offense, too. He's easily the most explosive player coming in this year.
Drake Harris, Wide Receiver
Hoke stole Drake Harris away from Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, and there's a good chance he's going to utilize the 4-Star wide receiver from the get-go when the 2014-15 season opens up in the summer.
As pointed out by Michigan State blogger Ryan (MSU 13-1) Rose, Harris should get a chance to make an immediate impact with the Wolverines, whereas he was going to be stuck behind some solidified players at MSU:
I don't think Drake Harris regrets his decision, and I don't blame him. He'll play right away at UM, while if he was at MSU he'd be buried.— Ryan (MSU 13-1) ROSE (@SpartanRyan) January 8, 2014
Harris was one of seven freshmen who recently enrolled early for spring classes, as reported by Nick Baumgardener of MLive.com. This means he and the other six early enrollees will be eligible to participate in spring practices, which will certainly help his early development.
Though he'll have to earn the right to hit the field on Saturdays for the Wolverines, Harris has the size, speed, athleticism and hands to make an immediate, positive impact.
Bryan Mone, Defensive Tackle
Losing senior defensive tackles Jibreel Black and Quinton Washington provides Michigan with a tremendous challenge to match its impressive No. 29-ranked run defense next season. The Wolverines gave up just 3.81 yards per carry last year.
The vacancies left by Black and Washington provide true freshman Bryan Mone, who also enrolled early with Harris, a chance to step in and become a stalwart early in his career.
Baumgardner sees Mone as the true freshman with the best chance of making an instant splash for the Wolverines, noting it'll come down to what kind of shape he's in:
On paper, this is a guy who has everything he needs to make an impact at this level. His weight is where it needs to be, as is his frame.
But is it good weight or bad weight? Will he get into Michigan's conditioning program and immediately drop 15 or so pounds because he's not a great 315? That remains to be seen.
BigBlueRecruiting sees Mone as a potential Haloti Ngata clone in Greg Mattison's system, while noting he likely has some bad weight to lose first, backing up Baumgardner's point:
Bryan Mone could be alot like Haloti Ngata in Mattison's system.. Has some bad weight to lose first. Big time space eater. Good jump at snap— BleedBlueRecruiting (@BBlueRecruiting) January 2, 2014
Should he get fit quick and become a dominant presence inside for Michigan, then Michigan will inevitably get better all around on the defensive side of the ball.
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