Eventually, Michigan will expect the world from Jabrill Peppers.
However, heading into 2014, the Wolverines probably just want to see a splash or two of his supposed Charles Woodson-esque skill set that’s scheduled to ravage the Big Ten for at least the next three years.
His athleticism should translate well into the secondary and return game, but he could also influence the tide of backfield while simultaneously contributing as a part-time receiver.
He’s just that good.
Hype only goes so far, and Peppers’ freshman season will be the proverbial proof in the pudding.
Hoke’s probably not anticipating a Heisman Trophy run from Peppers, but it’s fair to assume that he wants to see better than average from the former 5-star prep.
That being said, it’s only right to examine areas that could get a boost once they’ve received the Peppers touch.
But what’s the bar? Where does the process start?
Peppers isn’t the first player with the ability to play several positions, and he won't be the last. He's special, but probably not a once-in-a-lifetime player. Maybe once-a-decade or -generation. Not lifetime.
Then again, not everyone is compared to Chuck Heisman; his career numbers will serve as a key reference.
Note for comparisons: Clicking here will take to you Woodson’s collegiate stats page in the Bentley Historical Library database.
Clicking here will take to you his page on Sports-Reference.com. Stats slightly vary, but BHL will serve as the No. 1 source.
Woodson didn't return kicks or punts until his sophomore year, so that's the year that will be used as the bar for Peppers' first season in this category.
Had circumstances differed, Woodson could have done more as a true freshman. The fact that he didn't really bust out until his second year is more of a testament to his team's depth, not a lack of skill on his part.
That said, Peppers has more roles to fill. Now that Jeremy Gallon is gone, the Wolverines could use more assistance in the return department.
|First-Year Face-Off: Woodson vs. Peppers|
|PR Yards (Attempts)||106 (11)||110 (10)|
|KR Yards||78 (4)||100 (5)|
|Woodson's stats via Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan|
Again, circumstances are a bit different for Peppers than they were for Woodson, who, like it or not, is sort of the defacto yardstick when measuring Peppers' potential.
That's just how it goes.
During Woodson's frosh year of 1995, Michigan didn't need to experiment with runners. No, Tim Biakabutuka took care of that job just fine, racking up 1,818 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
Biakabutuka bolted for the NFL after that fall, opening the possibility to try new things in 1996, which will be the year used for the following table.
This year, the Wolverines could fiddle around with backs. They haven't had an overly productive ball-carrier in more than two years (Fitz Toussaint's 1,064 yards in 2011) and are yearning for someone to make something happen.
The pressure will be on Derrick Green, a sophomore-to-be who was among the top backs of the 2013 class. De'Veon Smith will also be looked upon to carry the load, as will Drake Johnson, who should make his healthy return from an ACL injury suffered in Week 1.
In the event that runners stall, don't be surprised to see Hoke and Doug Nussmeier, the offensive coordinator, dial up a handoff or reverse to Peppers, who runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash (same as Green's posted best).
The uncertainty and flexible nature of Team 135's budding scoring attack could call for heavy Peppers.
|Running Through the Woodsons and Greens?|
|Rushing Yards (Attempts)||152 (6)||180 (10)||270 (83)|
|Woodson's yards often came via reverse, not handoff. But his stats give an idea as to what Peppers may do this fall.|
As a sophomore, Woodson played the role of a playmaking receiver while Tai Streets and Jerame Tuman, a tight end, caught most of the passes from Scott Dreisbach.
Woodson wasn't a possession guy, although he had great hands. Most times, he was used as a punch to the gut and a bringer of winded defensive backs. As it turned out, that was a pretty good plan for the Wolverines, who saw Woodson become a star almost overnight.
As stated above, Michigan won't have Gallon this year. And to top it off, Jake Butt is out indefinitely. The sophomore-to-be was an up-and-comer before tearing his ACL in winter conditioning. Ordinarily, losing a youngster wouldn't be a deal breaker.
However, all bets are off when said youngster is among the team's most experienced catchers. Along with Devin Funchess and Jehu Chesson, Butt is one of just three returners with 15 or more receptions (that's career, not just last season).
It should be commonplace to see Peppers lined up as a wideout. He'll keep the secondary honest. Don't expect to see him blow away the Big Ten like Desmond Howard, but he should catch a few balls in 2014.
|Catch Like Chuck?|
|Receiving Yards||164 (13)||130 (15)|
|Bentley Historical Library, projections|
Never more at home, Woodson just fit into the defensive backfield. He was incredible from the get-go. Naturally gifted, getting to the ball and breaking up a pass was as easy as breathing. If there was a play to be made, he was the guy to do it.
Before anything else, Peppers, a superbly natural safety/corner, should make his mark as a defensive back. Projecting a breakout 2014 from the frosh is mandatory.
|Tackles (S/A)||45/10 (55)||35/10 (45)|
|Bentley Historical Library, projections|
He may not be Woodson, but he'll be one hell of a Peppers.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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