Ann Arbor — If Jabrill Peppers had any hesitation about honoring his commitment to Michigan, maybe it was in late November.
That’s when he volunteered on Twitter that he would visit some other schools in light of conversation that Michigan coach Brady Hoke’s job was in jeopardy.
But at 8 a.m. Wednesday, the first day of the national signing period, Peppers, a cornerback considered one of the best players in the country, faxed his signed letter-of-intent to play football for Michigan beginning this fall.
Michigan signed 16 players.
Hoke, at a news conference Wednesday said that ultimately the Wolverines’ 7-6 record last season didn’t give Peppers any pause.
“Did he waver some?” Hoke said. “Eh, I don’t know if it was waver, as much as he just had to step away from it, to be honest with you. (We know) 7-6 is not good enough here. We’ve got to become better.
“But you look at the class, they’ve stayed together the whole time.”
By that Hoke meant that this class, which had been committed in its entirety to Michigan since August, didn’t suffer any de-commitments even through a tough season.
There was speculation even as late as Tuesday that Peppers’ signing might be iffy. Hoke was able to exhale early Wednesday morning when his signed letter came through.
“I think I’m always nervous,” Hoke said. “Him and I talked a few times (Tuesday).”
This recruiting class hit the “sweet spot,” Hoke said, saying Michigan filled needs and added depth. But Peppers clearly is the gem.
Most recruiting analysts have said the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Peppers will be able to contribute immediately this fall. He played running back and defensive back his junior and senior years of high school at Paramus (N.J.) Catholic.
“Obviously he’s been gifted athletically,” Hoke said. “His competitive nature is another part of it.”
Peppers’ name has frequently been mentioned in the same sentence with Charles Woodson, the former Michigan Heisman Trophy-winning defensive back who also returned kicks and played offense later in his career.
It is clear Peppers has that kind of versatility, but having him stretch himself that much as a freshman might be too much to ask.
“I think, let’s get him in here and let him be a corner for a while and let him get acclimated to everything about college football,” Hoke said. “Do I think he’s very talented? There’s no question. Can he return kicks? Could he? Yeah, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. Could there be a plan for him somewhere offensively? There could be. But let’s let the kid walk on campus, go to a class during the summer and be a freshman and let what he does speak for itself.”
While Peppers appears likely to be an immediate contributor this fall, Hoke said it is difficult to predict which of the 15 other signees might also play.
He said five or six of them might have an opportunity, and said the early enrollees will have a better shot at playing time.
“You hesitate to say (who might play), because you say it, and everybody thinks that’s gospel and when a guy doesn’t play, they start questioning the kid,” Hoke said.
Michigan 2014 recruits
TE Ian Bunting, 6-6, 225, Hinsdale (Ill.) Central High
OT Juwan Bushell-Beatty, 6-6, 320, Paramus (N.J.) Catholic High
LB Noah Furbush, 6-4, 235, Kenton (Ohio) High
DE Lawrence Marshall, 6-3, 215, Southfield High
DT Brady Pallante, 6-0, 270, Barron Collier High, Naples, Fla.
CB Jabrill Peppers, 6-0, 190, Paramus (N.J.) Catholic High
LB Jared Wangler, 6-1, 215, Warren DeLaSalle High
WR Maurice Ways, 6-4, 190, Detroit Country Day High
LB Chase Winovich, 6-4, 218, Thomas Jefferson High, Clairton, Pa.
WR Freddy Canteen, 6-0, 170, Eastern Christian Academy, Elkton, Md.
OT Mason Cole, 6-4, 260, East Lake High, Tarpon Springs, Fla.
LB Michael Ferns, 6-2, 235, St. Clairsville (Ohio) High
WR Drake Harris, 6-3, 175, Grand Rapids Christian High
DT Bryan Mone, 6-4, 316, Highland High, Salt Lake City
QB Wilton Speight, 6-6, 225, Collegiate School, Richmond, Va.
CB Brandon Watson, 6-1, 190, Eastern Christian Academy, Elkton, Md.