Five-star defensive back Jabrill Peppers will arrive on Michigan's campus June 21 but before he does, the nation's No. 3 player in the Class of 2014 has some business to attend - he will seek to defend his state title in the 100- and 200-meter dashes today.
Peppers crossed the finish line in 10.52 seconds in the 100 and a 21.98 seconds in the 200 a week ago to win both races at his sectional meet, and he will enter today's New Jersey Meet of Champions, which comprises a field of every class no matter the size of the school, the favorite to repeat in both categories after winning state titles in 2013.
Chris Estrella from Ridgefield Park (10.64 seconds) appears to be Peppers' top competition in the 100 while Kashif Miller of Haddon Heights ran a 21.67 in the 200. Peppers did record a 21.48 earlier this season and has a career-best of 21.13 seconds - his winning time at last year's Meet of Champions - so the ability to ratchet it up another notch is there.
"I have one more win to get," he told TheWolverine.com "I haven't lost an individual race since my sophomore year and I was running on a bad quad. I'm focused, racing against the clock until I really get the time I want. If the weather holds up, and everything is clicking, I think I can get 10.4, maybe upper 10.3s, but I shouldn't be any slower than a 10.6."
Peppers' time of 10.52 seconds ranks 68th nationally but if he hits his desired goal, he would vault into the top 10 - the nation's fastest 100-meter time this season is 10.17 seconds and No. 10 is 10.35 seconds.
In the 200, the fastest time is 20.33 seconds.
The 6-0, 205-pound defensive back graduated Monday, and is excited to put one chapter behind him as he prepares for the next one.
"It was a good feeling to graduate because that was the first of many steps of what I need to do to get where I want to be," he said. "So it was a mixed feeling of me not wanting me to leave but knowing I need to follow this plan that God has set for me.
"I'm very excited to get to Michigan. I can't believe it's almost here. It's so surreal. It didn't even hit me until I graduated. I have less than 25 days at home."
Peppers would have liked to have enrolled early with seven of his future classmates, but the archdiocese does not allow it, and the Paramus Catholic grad was forced to wait. He will begin summer classes June 26, and expects to hit the ground running.
"That could have been a tremendous help to my development if I came here early, but it is what it is, and I didn't dwell on that," he said. "I talked to the guys that did come and I was able to ask questions like, 'How are the practices, what is the workout regiment, how does it differ from high school?'
"Just to get that insight was really helpful because I think I know what to expect and what it will take for me to realize my goal of playing as a true freshman."
As for where that spot will be, the coaches have debated where Peppers fits in best. It doesn't appear to be cornerback for now. Not with experience, talent and depth at that position. That leaves safety and nickel back, and Peppers has his preference, which you can read about in this ITF Extra.
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