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UM's Peppers might play 3 ways; Norfleet could return

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan fans have been waiting to see Jabrill Peppers back on the field, and they could very well see plenty of him.

Peppers, one of the nation’s most lauded players coming out of high school, was limited to playing in just more than two games at the start of last season and was sidelined with two leg injuries. He said last month he’s completely healthy, and coach Jim Harbaugh on Tuesday said Peppers, a safety, could see snaps on offense and also is expected to work in the return game.

Harbaugh, met with beat writers on Tuesday at Schembechler Hall in advance of this week’s Big Ten kickoff in Chicago, and touched on a number of subjects, including dropping the Legends jersey designation, the progress of a few injured players, and the future of Dennis Norfleet.

In Peppers the Wolverines potentially have a dynamo who could affect all areas of the game as a triple threat. Harbaugh said it’s a “possibility” Peppers will get snaps on offense when camp begins Aug. 7.

“Jabrill is Jabrill,” Harbaugh said. “Every individual, if they have the capability athletically of doing that and the desire, we would explore that.

“It’s rare somebody does offense, defense and special teams. The rare three-way player. It’s exciting when somebody is capable of doing that. What does that entail? They have some real gifts athletically in terms of football and they’re really smart, they’re really sharp to understand three different systems.”

Harbaugh praised Peppers' ability to learn and absorb quickly.

“Jabrill has never struck me as somebody that I've ever seen his head spin,” Harbaugh said. “I've never seen that from him. He's not one of those type of youngsters. He's got a very good tight grip of his mind. He’s very sharp, very focused. Nor have I've never seen him unconfident. He's very confident in his preparation and his ability.”

Last month while working at the Youth Impact Program at Michigan Stadium, Peppers said he can’t wait to play football again.

“I'm eager to see myself," Peppers said. "Coming off an injury, I never really had football taken away from me. As excited as people are to see me play, I'm maybe 10,000 times more excited to be able to play, to be out there with my brothers and play and accomplish what I said I'm going to accomplish.

“(Sitting out) was definitely a learning experience for me, but it made me all the more hungry. It opened another drive within me.”

Norfleet future unclear

Harbaugh said Norfleet has been granted his release to talk to other schools, but also on the table is an option for him to remain at Michigan.

Norfleet’s high school coach at Detroit King, Dale Harvel, told The Detroit News in May that Norfleet, a returner/receiver, was released from his scholarship at Michigan. Other media outlets reported he had been suspended.

“A plan was put into place for Dennis to where he could accomplish all his goals athletically and academically,” Harbaugh said. “Our desire is that he gets his Michigan degree and that plan hasn’t changed from our viewpoint. In our conversations I’ve had with Dennis, that’s where it stands.”

Uniform, helmet changes?

Harbaugh did not talk specifics about any uniform changes but said the program is considering bringing back helmet stickers. Gary Moeller was the last coach to award helmet stickers.

Harbaugh said a decision on the stickers will be made as a team.

“Haven’t completely decided,” he said.

When asked about the potential for alternate uniforms, Harbaugh said Michigan most likely will stick to its tradition home and road looks.

Extra points

Running back Drake Johnson, who tore an ACL in the Ohio State game, is working his way back to participate in camp. Could he be full-go by Game 1? “I’m not making a prediction,” Harbaugh said. “Not a doctor and I’m not Drake. It’s going really well in my coach opinion.”

… Harbaugh thinks receiver Drake Harris, nagged by hamstring issues, will participate in camp.

… Interim athletic director Jim Hackett said Harbaugh cast his vote for Nike on his second day on campus. Harbaugh on Tuesday praised adidas, which has one year left on its contract with Michigan. “They’ve been fabulous with everything -- uniform design, the quality of the gear that our players use, participating (in the) football camps, our YIP program. All the folks at Adidas have been great. John Wangler has been A++.”