Do-it-all Michigan star Jabrill Peppers put together another stellar effort against Rutgers, and coach Jim Harbaugh believes the next Heisman Trophy winner is wearing maize and blue.
Only one primarily defensive player can boast that he won the Heisman Trophy. It was 19 years ago, when the last non-quarterback, non-running back took home the hardware.
Charles Woodson wore maize and blue, just like Jabrill Peppers. Now, Peppers is making his case to be Michigan’s next Heisman winner and join Woodson in prestigious company.
Then-Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr viewed Woodson as a weapon in all phases of the game. Woodson moonlighted as a punt returner and wide receiver while shining as a defensive back with ball-hawking skills that led to back-to-back first-team All-America honors as a sophomore and junior.
In 1997, Woodson beat out Peyton Manning for the Heisman Trophy. But as impressive as Woodson’s career and final season were, Peppers offers even more versatility.
The redshirt sophomore plays multiple positions defensively and attacks the opposition with conviction. And after Michigan stuffs its opponent on a particular drive, it’s Peppers who stays on the field awaiting the punt. He brought one back for a touchdown against Colorado on Sept. 17 and nearly scored on multiple others.
“No, I have not coached a more versatile player than Jabrill Peppers,” coach Jim Harbaugh said Saturday. “There’s not one that is coming to mind right now that I didn’t coach. I can’t think of one. Maybe there’s someone who (is more versatile), but one is not coming to mind.”
Recently, Harbaugh and his staff designed offensive plays utilizing Peppers at the quarterback spot. During Saturday’s 78-0 trouncing of Rutgers, Peppers rushed three times—a 63-yard gain and touchdown runs of seven and four yards. Just for good measure, he added two tackles on defense.
Oh, and he returned a punt that would’ve been a touchdown had it not been called back for a penalty.
Basically, Peppers can do everything—and do it well.
“Whenever you get the ball in your hands, you just want to make something positive happen,” Peppers said. “(Saturday), God had his hand on me on some of those plays. I just have to give it up to the blocking and the coaching scheme.”
Peppers is a huge reason why the Wolverines are on a collision course with Ohio State for a potential battle of undefeated teams on Nov. 26 in Columbus. Coincidentally, each of Michigan’s last two Heisman winners clinched the award in wins over the Buckeyes.
Desmond Howard did his famous pose following a 93-yard punt return against Ohio State in 1991. Six years later, Woodson returned a punt for a touchdown, intercepted a pass in the end zone and made a critical 37-yard reception in Michigan’s win over the Buckeyes.
Peppers might have the award wrapped up by the time the Wolverines visit Ohio State, though. Just ask his coach.
“Gosh, if there’s a better player in the country, I don’t know who it is,” Harbaugh said. “I know there’s a lot of great players out there, but this guy—to be able to coach a guy like Jabrill Peppers is a real joy. There’s so much more. There’s nothing he can’t do. It’s the darndest thing I’ve ever seen. My humble opinion is we are looking for a Heisman trophy winner, candidate.”