Brown sees Peppers, Gary as crowning jewels of UM's 'D'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Detroit — Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown is feeling pretty good about one known defensive commodity, Jabrill Peppers, and already has a good feeling about a bit of an unknown at Michigan, Rashan Gary.

Peppers, the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year last season, is such a versatile piece to Brown’s defensive puzzle, Brown now acknowledges calling him a SAM linebacker as he did early in spring practice, is probably a bit too limiting.

And Gary, the nation’s No. 1 prospect out of Paramus (N.J.) Catholic, the same school that produced Peppers, already has turned Brown’s head.

Brown joined Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and a large number of the Wolverines’ non-coaching staff at the Horatio Williams Foundation Metro Detroit Coaches Clinic Thursday evening. The now annual event that drew about 200 local high school coaches, who participated in breakout coaching sessions with the Michigan staff, was sponsored by DMC, Adidas, Top Cat Sales and Xenith.

After speaking to a large crowd about defense, he spoke afterwards about Michigan’s defense coming out of spring practice.

While he described Peppers as a SAM the first week of practice, Brown, who came here from Boston College where he led the Eagles to the nation’s top-rated defense, said that’s too narrow. He also made clear he had no intention of showing much during the spring game involving Peppers.

“That would be a foolish thing to do, but we did a bunch of stuff with him (during the spring), and I thought he did a tremendous job of handling all the pieces,” Brown said. “He’s a really, really bright football player and a bright young man and can do a lot of things to help our football team. We’re going to push that to the limit.

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“The minute you put him out there, is he the SAM, what is he? How do you play him? Is he a third safety? Is he a third corner? What is he? Those are the things you’re looking at trying to accomplish with a guy of his nature.”

Peppers won’t know just based on the personnel what his role will be.

“Until he hears the call,” Brown said.

Gary, the highly recruited and lauded defensive lineman, is anticipated to have an immediate impact this fall.

“I think that’s hard placing expectations on a young man like that, but that’s one guy, from all indications from watching him play in all-star games, to his visits to campus, let’s just say I’m pretty encouraged we’re going to see that young man early in his career,” Brown said.

Could he possibly start?

“Never know,” Brown said. “Life is good, and he is very good.”

Brown didn’t rule out that possibility even with a number of veteran, experienced linemen.

“You know the rules — best players play,” he said.

With Peppers, unlike Gary, Brown understands he will have to do some sharing this fall. Peppers said after the spring game he did not practice on offense at all, presumably to give his entire attention to a new defense.

But Brown expects Peppers will play on the offense.

“That would be my assumption,” Brown said.

Can Peppers handle playing that many snaps? He played a maximum of 96 at Minnesota.

“Doesn’t scare me,” Brown said.

Pushing for strong leadership

Harbaugh said he is proud of new Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel and UM president Mark Schlissel for being pro-active in the conversation about satellite camps since the NCAA Council voted to ban them last Friday.

The SEC and ACC commissioners have been on the forefront of the issue for months, going public with their opinions that satellite camps should be banned, but Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has largely been quiet about the topic.

“I want our leaders to fight for what is right,” Harbaugh said. “You don’t want them to hide on the issue. But our leadership at Michigan from our president to our athletic director Warde Manuel, they are on top of this. It’s great to see them taking the lead. We’re ready to follow and support. Our leadership at Michigan is going to be at the forefront.”

Twitter: @chengelis