The hype surrounding 5-star recruit Jabrill Peppers began building the moment he announced his Michigan commitment. Interest fueled by a steady stream of YouTube video highlights, his Twitter presence and personal blog Breezy’s World, via USA Today, has reached a fever pitch just as he prepares to join his new teammates in Ann Arbor.
But in his final blog entry, Peppers dialed down the fiery rhetoric and acknowledged the competitive gap he needs to cross while remaining undaunted by the work ahead:
I just want to be as prepared as possible going into my freshman year because I know a lot will be expected from me. I've always had that, but I always say, 'To whom much is given much is required.'
I'm not going into Michigan thinking about expectations or worrying about doing certain things to live up to expectations. I know there's a huge transition from high school to college and I'm just going in focusing on learning the defensive schemes.
Many great high school players don’t appreciate the challenge of football at the collegiate level—Peppers isn't making that mistake.
He has embraced the work of cultivating his talent, and that should send a chill through Michigan’s opponents and bring a smile to the face of Michigan fans.
He also addressed the comparisons between him and Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson:
I'm not trying to go in there to be the next Charles Woodson. It's a nice comparison, but, at the end of the day, that's Charles. That's one of the best college football players ever. I haven't done anything yet.
I just want to be the best Jabrill I can be.
Hoke perhaps helped delay some of the inevitable comparisons last week, saying that Peppers might begin his college career wearing No. 5 instead of the No. 2 jersey made famous by Woodson.
No matter what jersey number he wears, the comparison to Woodson isn't going away. While Woodson made 55 tackles and five interceptions during his freshman year, he didn't appear on offense or start returning kicks until his sophomore season—even he needed time to acclimate to the collegiate game.
Earlier this year, Hoke tried to slow down the speculation that Peppers would be used to return kicks this season, while acknowledging his potential.
“Let him get in here and be a corner for a while before returning kicks,” said Hoke. “And possibly there might be a plan for him to play on offense.”
Peppers has masterfully cultivated his image—many professional players could learn from his example. But image is one thing, and now it’s time for him to back up his bravado with performance on the field.
Peppers may have dialed down the attitude in his blog posting, but he couldn’t resist setting bold expectations for his freshman season.
Swagger is great, but Michigan needs him to compete and earn a position on the depth chart as soon as possible. He’ll need to prove himself to teammates and foes alike—that’s the pressure that comes with being one of the top recruits in the nation.
All statistics from mgoblue.com, the official University of Michigan athletic department website.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.