A minute or two after 8:00 a.m., fans could breathe easier as five-star cornerback Jabrill Peppers' letter of intent arrived at Schembechler Hall. The Paramus Catholic standout is a special talent defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said on MGoBlueTV this morning.
"We are so excited about Jabrill and what he brings to this defense," said Mattison, who can comment now that the LOI has been faxed in. "We have a corner that can really bring the pressure package we want. A very intelligent player, very fast, also plays safety, can play nickel. The size and the speed and the competitiveness - he has the whole package."
Ranked the No. 3 player in the Rivals100, Peppers is the highest-ranked player the Wolverines have ever signed, tying quarterback Drew Henson, who was the No. 3 recruit in the 1998 class.
It is a player that arrived in 1995, however, that Peppers is most consistently compared to.
"You're talking about Charles Woodson -- don't ever compare anybody to what he accomplished," Mattison cautioned. "Compare him to what Woodson had as he first got here. Go ahead and do that all you want.
"Let's see what happens Peppers' freshman year, his sophomore year, his junior year. You can't compare them but you'll see a guy that has a lot of talent."
While it may be unfair to compare the two, Peppers himself has embraced the challenge to walk in Woodson's footsteps.
"Jabrill has always followed Michigan football so he knows the Charles Woodsons, the Marcus Rays, the long line of guys that have been back there, and what they accomplished, what they had to do, and what it meant for them to do that," Mattison said.
"It was easy for him to go somewhere else, but instead he said, 'I want to be that, be in that arena. And I want to show everyone I am that kind of player.' And now it's our job to put him in a position to do that."
While Peppers is the headliner of today's group, Mattison is also excited about the other eight defenders signing with the Maize and Blue, including linebackers Michael Ferns, Chase Winovich and Noah Furbush (their LOIs were in by the time Mattison spoke).
"We've worked real hard at trying to get that talent level where we wanted it," Mattison said. "Now we feel like we have a group of guys that are back to the old Michigan linebackers.
"One thing that I looked at very closely when I evaluated every one of these linebackers, if you can't beat a guy one-on-one on a blitz, then you're not what we're looking for. Some of it can be taught but a lot of it is instinctiveness. When a guy blitzes, he either beats him or doesn't -- it's not acceptable to run into somebody.
"If you do blitz and don't get there, it kills your defense. It puts your secondary in a disadvantage. That is something all of these guys can do. They have the ability to open their hips and beat a blocker one-on-one, and that's what I'm excited about."