Michigan Wolverines sophomore Jabrill Peppers is unquestionably one of the most athletic college football players in the nation. He also is inserting himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation.
Peppers put together a superb all-around contest against Colorado when he recorded a career-high nine tackles and totaled 204 all-purpose yards -- including a 54-yard punt-return touchdown. He was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week and shared the league's defensive honor.
Peppers' all-around talents will be on display again when the No. 4 Wolverines (3-0) open Big Ten play against Penn State (2-1) on Saturday when he is once again expected to line up all over the field.
He was a strong safety on defense last season before Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown elected to move him to strong-side linebacker. The move is allowing him to move around the back end and even creep into the box and the Wolverines are also incorporating him into the offense just as they did last season.
"I can't think of another player like Jabrill -- I know there's not another player that I've coached like him" Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said at Monday's press conference. "The unique thing is all the positions he can play.
"You start counting them: It would be safety, corner, nickel, outside linebacker. It would be slot receiver, wildcat quarterback, running back, kick returner, punt returner, gunner, hold-up.
"That's 11 right there, and I know there's others he could do. But those are all the things he's done already here for us. And he's done them all well. He's a special type of athlete and special football player."
Peppers hears those type of compliments all the time and just takes them in stride.
But finding out his all-purpose yardage was over 200 yards? Now that is the type of production that impresses him.
"That was me?" Peppers asked, pointing a finger at himself. "Wow ... really? Two hundred and four yards, wow. Wowww! That's crazy. I didn't even think about it like that. I just tried to do whatever I could, man.
"We were down, and when you are one of the playmakers, one of the guys who makes the team go, you've got to take it upon yourself to just try to make something happen."
His Michigan teammates have come to expect that Peppers will indeed make something happen.
"He's the best athlete pound-for-pound in college, probably in any sport," sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight said. "He's a freak."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
--QB Wilton Speight has performed well in his first three college starts and has eight touchdown passes against one interception. He is averaging 228.7 yards per game -- he threw for 229 against Colorado -- and has impressed teammates with his poise in the huddle. Speight narrowly won the starting job over Houston transfer John O'Korn and has now created the expectation that he is on his way to being a three-year starter for the Wolverines.
--WR Amara Darboh is regularly finding the end zone as four of his 10 receptions have gone for touchdowns. The fifth-year senior is also averaging an impressive 20.4 yards per catch and matched his career long with a 45-yard scoring reception against Colorado. "I think going into this game, I was trying to do a little too much and over-thinking things," Darboh said after the win over the Buffaloes. "You live and learn from that."
--OLB Jabrill Peppers is having a superb season on defense and special teams and his role will continue to expand on offense. Peppers leads the Wolverines with 28 tackles -- his 9 1/2 stops for losses include 2 1/2 sacks -- and is averaging 40.5 yards on kickoff returns and 21.6 yards (with one touchdown) on punt returns. The sophomore's seamless move from safety to linebacker has transformed the Michigan defense into a unit that the opposing quarterback must check repeatedly prior to the snap in regards to whether Peppers is lined up as a linebacker, safety or cornerback.
--MLB Ben Gedeon posted a career-high 12 tackles in the victory over Colorado and continues to assert himself as one of the leaders of the defense. The senior ranks second on the team in tackles with 25 and has also recorded two sacks. Gedeon had never made more than seven tackles in a game prior to the output against the Buffaloes and will be counted on to approach double digits more often during Big Ten play.