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Jabrill Peppers at heart of talented class of UM freshmen

06/21/2014, 12:43am EDT

The crowd watches the University of Michigan annual spring game at Michigan Stadium, Saturday, April 5, 2014. Blade

ANN ARBOR — Earlier this month, Jabrill Peppers put a pen to paper and outlined his expectations for the start of his tenure with the University of Michigan football program.

In an essay for USA Today, the final installment of Peppers’ year-long blog with the publication, he touched on what he has been doing to prepare for college football: Then, the marquee recruit focused on Michigan’s expectations for the 2014 season.

“I'm not trying to say that we're gonna win the Big Ten title or anything,” wrote Peppers, a five-star cornerback from Paramus, N.J. “Coming from the season we just had we're still trying to find ourselves and trying to gel as a team.

“I do think our fans will see a lot of improvement. I think the fans have a lot to be excited about. We're gonna let our play speak for itself.”

Peppers and the remainder of UM’s 16-player freshman class arrived this week in Ann Arbor, joining seven freshmen who enrolled in January. And Peppers could be setting the tone — and adding to expectations — for the Wolverines. Wide receiver Drake Harris, one of Peppers’ Class of 2014 cohorts, proclaimed on Twitter that Michigan’s recruiting class was “going to run college football.”

It raises the question: What kind of ceiling does this class have? And will it reach it, eclipse it, or fall short? It’s speculation thus far, but UM’s current incoming class has to establish itself, both short-term and long-term. The three major recruiting services —,, and — don’t rank Michigan’s incoming class higher than 20th in the nation, and Peppers is the only five-star recruit.

UM coach Brady Hoke told that Peppers could play on special teams, in addition to defense, but has tempered expectations for Peppers.

"It's really unfair to that kid to say, 'This is the next coming,' ” Hoke said. “But like I tell a guy who has that kind of ability, you've asked for it because of what you've done. And not in a bad way. Jabrill is a guy that, obviously, we think is a very good football player.”

FOR THE FUTURE: Michigan is already procuring commitments for its incoming 2015 and 2016 classes, as quarterback Alex Malzone from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is one of five four-star players who have given a verbal commitment.

Furthermore, UM hosted a camp for high school football players this week, and several scholarship offers have emerged. Among the players who have been offered? Elijah Holyfield, a Class of 2016 running back from Georgia and the son of former world champion boxer Evander Holyfield.

Also among this week’s verbal commitments: Messiah DeWeaver, a four-star quarterback from Trotwood, Ohio, who will join the 2016 recruiting class; Chris Clark, a tight end from Avon, Conn., who is ranked the No. 1 tight end in the country for 2015, and Grant Newsome, an offensive lineman from Lawrenceville, N.J., who will join the 2015 class.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at:, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.

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