Michigan Football Recruiting: Jabrill Peppers Will Make or Break 2014 Class

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2014

Jan 2, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Team Nitro cornerback Jabrill Peppers (5) runs with the ball during a punt during the second half at Tropicana Field. Team Highlight defeated the Team Nitro 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The best way to describe Michigan's 2014 recruiting class before anybody plays a single snap is good, but it's not great. The outlook for the group as a whole will ultimately change based on the impact top prospect Jabrill Peppers is able to make with the Wolverines.

Peppers is a special athlete capable of transforming an entire unit by himself. There are only a handful of prospects in every class with that type of truly elite upside. If he pans out, he can turn an otherwise solid, yet unspectacular class into a memorable one for Michigan.

Of course, if he struggles to live up to the hype and nobody else emerges as a superstar to fill the void, the 2014 class could go bust for Brady Hoke and Co.

Michigan confirmed the addition of Peppers as part of its national signing day festivities. He's the headline member of a 16-player incoming group:

The reason Michigan's class isn't generating top-10 accolades is because of a lack of top-tier recruits. 247Sports' composite rankings places the Wolverines outside the top 15, with Peppers being the only 5-star addition. The other 15 players are either 3- or 4-star prospects.

In other words, the general consensus of the recruiting outlets is that Michigan is getting a group with plenty of players who should eventually make an impact but only one true game-changer.

Ultimately, it puts a lot of pressure on Peppers' shoulders because he's carrying the flag for the 2014 class. He's the player everybody expects to become a difference-maker sooner rather than later, which is a challenge for any incoming freshman, even one with his natural ability.

He's certainly an outstanding talent. Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com passed along comments from defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who believes having Peppers in the secondary will provide a boost to the entire unit:

We are so excited about Jabrill and what he brings to this defense. When you have a corner (like that), we can really come and bring the pressure packages we want.

The size, the speed, the competitiveness…he's got the whole package.

His remarks are right in line with the outside perception. 247Sports' composite rankings rated the versatile corner as the No. 3 prospect in the country and the top player with the athlete distinction, given his ability to play basically any skill position.

Mattison makes it clear that the plan is for him to start his collegiate career at corner. Whether he will stay there for the duration is unclear, but it's an area where he should be able to make his presence felt pretty quickly.

His combination of size, speed and playmaking ability is extremely rare. He just needs to gain experience at the collegiate level while also setting into one role in order to excel.

Peppers has all the tools to become an outstanding college player over time. If he does, the 2014 class for Michigan will be looked upon far more favorably in the future.