Ann Arbor – The line of autograph seekers on the field at Michigan Stadium for freshman Jabrill Peppers was ridiculously deep, nearly extending from end zone to end zone.
All of the Michigan freshman football players had designated tables where they sat on Sunday to sign autographs for fans. Peppers sat next to teammate Chase Winovich, but their table, unlike the others, had zig-zag roping to handle the large number of fans.
Peppers’ arrival at Michigan has been eagerly anticipated and the comparisons to former Heisman Trophy-winning cornerback Charles Woodson already have been made.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison don’t want to rush things with Peppers, though. He is working at nickel during preseason camp, which started last Monday, and Mattison said Sunday he has played with the first- and second-team units.
“He’s talented, let’s just face it,” Mattison said, mentioning Peppers’ state track titles in the 100 and 200 meters. “Now he has to prove he’s a Michigan football player, and that happens every day in practice. To this point he’s embraced that and tried to be the best player he can be.”
Hoke plans to shelter Peppers from media hype and steep expectations from fans. Mattison said he is not worried about Peppers getting carried away with the attention.
“I haven’t had to say a thing to him about it,” Mattison said. “We coach him really, really hard. There’s no pampering. You’re just a guy in our defense. Obviously, with what his success was in high school, he’ll probably get attention. He’s been very mature about it. He understands it’s Michigan now. When you’re at Michigan, you’re just one of the team, you’re responsible to do what the team is asking you, and that’s what he’s done.
“I don’t even notice the attention, I really don’t. To be honest with you, when he’s in the (defensive) meetings, I wouldn’t even know he’s there because he’s being coached just like everyone else.”
And what about Peppers’ potential impact this fall?
“I expect him to play up to his ability,” Mattison said. “We wouldn’t have him in there if we didn’t feel he could help us have a really, really good defense.”