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Jim Harbaugh on Jabrill Peppers: ‘He’s good at football’

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jabrill Peppers

Ann Arbor – Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has a standard response these days when asked about do-everything star Jabrill Peppers.

“He’s good at football,” Harbaugh says.

The line draws chuckles, even from Harbaugh, and its simplicity encapsulates what Peppers means to Michigan.

How good is he? Peppers’ play through four games can be documented in another way – by the number of Wolverine stickers on his helmet.

“He’s got just under 40,” Harbaugh said Monday at his weekly news conference. “Four weeks in a row he’s No. 1 ranked.”

Fourth-ranked Michigan is preparing to face No. 8 Wisconsin on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.

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Based on Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst's assessment of Peppers, a bunch more stickers are expected. Chryst on Monday piled on the Peppers admiration when he was asked about him at his news conference.

“He’s a special football player,” Chryst told reporters. “There’s two things when I think of him. One is, there aren’t a lot of players that can impact the game in all three phases like he does. And then when you watch him some more, he does a lot of the little things that are kind of reserved for when you specialize.

“That’s what’s impressive – his knowledge and awareness of the game. Clearly, as an athlete, he’s special. But I think the football part of him, the understanding, that’s what, to me, really makes him, he’s gotta be the best player in college football right now.”

Peppers had a season-high 83 plays two weeks ago against Colorado. For his performance in that game – he scored on a 54-yard punt return – he was named the Big Ten’s defensive and special teams player of the week. For the record, offensive guard Ben Braden had the most plays with 80 last week against Penn State.

Harbaugh said Peppers has made it perfectly clear he wants to play as much as possible. He has made appearances on offense the last two weeks in addition to his usual responsibilities on defense and special teams, and if last season is any indication, by the second half of the season, he will spend even more time on offense.

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Peppers is second nationally in tackles for loss, averaging 2.4 a game, and he's third in punt returns, averaging 22.7 yards.

Harbaugh described scenes last season where, on a tightly-packed sideline, he would be looking for Peppers and would yell for him.

“‘Hey, get me Jabrill! Where’s Jabrill?’” Harbaugh said. “This past Saturday, I would just say, ‘Jabrill!’ And he’d be, ‘Yeah, I’m here coach! Right here!’ Two feet behind me. He’s the same way. He’s like a bull pawing at the ground ready to attack. It’s good.

“Sometimes I didn’t even get ‘Jabr…’ and he said, ‘I’m here coach! Right here!’

“It’s exciting. He’s good at football.”

Harbaugh has notably listed the positions Peppers has played for the Wolverines, and it takes more than two hands to count. Last week, special teams coach Chris Partridge, who coached Peppers in high school at Paramus (N.J) Catholic, said they could tell him to play center and instead of whining about it, he would ask for the plays so he could prepare.

There’s pretty much nothing he won’t do.

“He’s made it clear he wants to do as much as possible,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no question all of our coaches, special teams, offense and defense, they’re like a bull with a paw in the ground – they want Jabrill involved.”

Meanwhile, Peppers’ teammates, not to mention his coaches, constantly marvel at what he does.

“It’s daily with the team – ‘Look what he did there. Look at what he did today,’” Harbaugh said. “He does it with a genuine enthusiasm. Those eye-popping plays happen every day (in practice). You give him something new, whether it’s an offensive snap, know he hasn’t done it before, and he goes out to practice and everybody’s looking. Nobody’s done it that well. Guys who play that position don’t do it that well. He’s really good at football – that’s kind of become what we say.”