Jabrill Peppers was a somewhat surprising name to make the list of Heisman invites back in December. He didn’t win, but I think the Cleveland Browns draft pick is fine and an amazing athlete. It cannot be ignored that he pops because he’s a jack of all trades and not a master of one. He was in the forefront of the voter’s mind because he did what former Michigan corner Charles Woodson did, which is play all over the field in different positions.
But when you do this (and this part is just in one game, mind you), it’s going to capture folks’ attention:
How did Jabrill Peppers stay busy? (ICYMI)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 30, 2016
LB 42 plays
Wildcat QB 6
(+ 1 kick rtn, 1 punt rtn) pic.twitter.com/zJSkehCeB0
So let’s take a look at the different ways Michigan used Peppers, at nearly a dozen different spots on the field.
The longest run of his season was a 63-yard zone-read from the wildcat.
The best part about this? It’s a semi-busted play. I’m not sure who messed it up, and Peppers ends up essentially faking this play to nobody.
- He fakes to nobody. It’s a phantom mesh point.
- Peppers still reads the backside defensive lineman (the pulling H-back is heading to the second level). Could be that miscommunication led the RB to go on a track away from Peppers at the snap, and not after the fake.
- All Peppers needs is for his H-back to get just a little block on the edge, and Peppers’ speed negates any angle so he’s off to the races.
2. Running back
He doesn’t carry the ball on this particular play, but he lines up in the backfield on the kneeldown. So why show this play? Because he does a damn backflip. Just look at it, because it’s cool.
But besides gymnastics, Peppers broke Harbaugh’s playcalling calculus in a practice earlier this season.
"We put a different play in with him yesterday in practice. Then he got it in the meeting and he left, went back to the defensive meeting and came out to practice," Harbaugh said Thursday on 97.1-FM. "He was a running back and his assignment was to block. But he blocked and then he went out for a route. He got his blocking assignment done and then he continued out into a route. We threw it to him, which was not the design, but from now on -- and we've been running this play for 10 years -- (it will be).
"In 10 years, we've never had a back who got his blocking assignment done (on that play) and got into the route at the same time and he did it the first time like that was the way the play should've been run for the last 10 years. That's the kind of stuff he does. It breaks the mold darn near every time he does something."
Michigan used Peppers in an H-back capacity to get him the ball with a running start. It’s about speed in space.
4. Wide receiver
In the interest of new and inventive ways to get Peppers the ball, Michigan used him out wide as well. Here’s a screen against Michigan State.
And when Michigan needed an even more unconventional play with Peppers out wide, here’s a throwback pass:
I won’t blabber much here. I can just let him tell you how he would get the job done as a CB against former Michigan Heisman winner Desmond Howard.
6. Nickel/slot corner
As a slot defender, Peppers’ speed can also wreck shop in a different way. Here, there’s real versatility on display because Peppers doesn’t start in the slot, but once he gets there, he brings bad intentions.
UCF tried to get a little fancy. Typically, you can match up a running back with a slot defender and exploit a mismatch if that defender is a husky linebacker or a thick safety down in the box. Peppers is neither of those things. Peppers isn’t going to get outran by a running back.
- UCF really thought they had a mismatch here, or at least they hoped they did.
- A poor attempt to create some separation doesn’t really help things.
- Because Peppers is essentially stride for stride with the RB by the time the ball gets thrown. The back can’t get a step, and a poor throw gives this play zero chance of working.
- Make sure the folks in the back see you, young man. Wheel route has nothing on Jabrill.
This is where he played the most, meaning this was the duty that did the most to earn him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. His best stat is his number of tackles for loss, a team-leading 15.
On the first play of Michigan’s season, Peppers set the tone with this thunderous tackle. Just look at the burst into the backfield.
You can see it again here.
And one more time here.
It’s really almost laughable here.
Peppers didn’t have a large impact on the game at safety, and he hadn’t played back there all that often in 2016 (only one snap in the Michigan State game, for instance). It just makes the most sense to have him much closer to the ball instead of 10 or 12 yards off of it. Also, Michigan safeties Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas are really good in their own right. Because of this, I firmly believe Peppers’ most important contribution to Michigan’s defense at this spot was his inspired dance moves during the Rutgers game.
Here, while he waits for the playcall from the sideline:
And then he picks it back up once he gets in position:
It’s important to have fun.
9. Field goal blocker
Because I am a man of my word, this is Peppers lining up in field goal block formation. I promised you 11 Peppers positions. I am going to give you 11 Peppers positions.
10. Kick returner
Although Peppers is a kick returner (10 runbacks for a nice 26-yard average, part of his Big Ten return man of the year award), this section has nothing to do with him actually returning a kick. He was one of two men deep in the Penn State game, and he made one of the most important business decisions in college football history when he sidestepped a rumbling kicker named Joey Julius.
Fellow KR/DB Jourdan Lewis (on the receiving end of the crushing blow) wasn’t too pleased.
Jabrill making business decisions, without considering involving parties. https://t.co/TiHOfYV0eu— Jourdan Lewis (@JourdanJD) September 25, 2016
Like any savvy businessman following a potential missed calculation on a deal, Peppers patched things up with an associate. He tweeted back, “Stop it lmaooooo you know I woulda took that L for you bro.”
11. Punt returner
But when Peppers does get the ball in the return game, make no mistake about it: he’s electric. He’s one of the country’s best, ranking No. 5 in return average among players with at least 1.2 returns per game.
If got called back, but Peppers knows who really enjoyed it.
it counts to my mama so that's alright with me https://t.co/L5KfBmz0zr— JP5 (@JabrillPeppers) October 9, 2016
Jabrill Peppers: noted mama’s boy and exceptional college football player. Now he’s onto Cleveland.