Michigan football: Jabrill Peppers, freshman class eager to make immediate impact – Detroit Free Press

The Michigan football program has a split freshman class this year.

Seven players enrolled in January so they could get acclimated early and participate in spring practice. The other nine are schedule to enroll this weekend, beginning their classes — called the bridge program for incoming freshman students — and workouts with strength coach Aaron Wellman.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke and his staff have never hesitated to play freshmen, so each of these players arrives knowing there’s a chance he could make an immediate impact. And this year, after struggling the past two seasons with eight and seven wins, Hoke and his staff may be more likely to take chances on players who could help.

A few who arrived early showed in the spring that they are good candidates to see the field — including receiver Freddy Canteen and offensive lineman Mason Cole, who both spent significant time with the first team.

Many eyes will also focus on defensive back Jabrill Peppers, who arrives as the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect by some recruiting services and is expected to make a major defensive impact.

Peppers wants to return U-M to winning tradition

Free Press sports writer Mark Snyder recently caught up with some of the nine newest arrivals.

Maurice Ways: WR, Birmingham Detroit Country Day

What are you looking forward to? “I haven’t played football since last November, so just getting back in the rhythm of things and prepare myself to get better. I’m looking forward to the upcoming season, but also camps, summer workouts until we get to that first game. I’m excited to be a freshman and learn more things.”

What’s your take on joining the large group of young receivers? “It’s definitely motivation. I’m close with Freddy (Canteen.) Me and Freddy talk often, and just seeing the impact he made when he was there in the spring motivates me to want to do the same thing. Even last year in recruiting, when we committed, we had goal: to come in and play right away and make an immediate impact and he held his end of the bargain.”

What was it like watching him in practices this spring? “I went to a couple. Freddy’s a hard worker. He loves the game of football, he’s a student of the game and is all about football. So when I heard he was making big (plays), I wasn’t surprised at all. When I get there in the summer, I’m going to do the same thing and make as much of an immediate impact as I can.”

What are the changes in Michigan’s offense under new coordinator Doug Nussmeier? “Just practice-wise. Coach Nussmeier, he’s a perfectionist. He’s very high-tempo, very energetic and during practice it has a faster tempo to it now. Guys are more energetic, guys are more upbeat and the offense is faster and smooth.”

What has receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski given you to work on? “Because I’m a big receiver, I’ve got to get in and out of my break pretty fast. Really footwork is the big thing for me, getting my routes down, getting them more crisp. Being young to the game, I’ve only been playing four years now, I have a lot to learn about football and being a receiver.”

What’s your hobby? “I play drums. That’s kind of my outlet. When I’m not playing football or taking a break, I’m on the drums or just chillin’ to the music. I’m not sure I can have the drums in the dorms but I’ll definitely have my earphones.”

Lawrence Marshall: DE, Southfield

What’s your motivation? “My family. I feel like I’ve got to provide for my family one day and the only way I can do that is by grinding.”

Have you gotten close with certain guys in the class? “I’m cool with Chase (Winovich), Mo Ways, Jared (Wangler), Jabrill (Peppers). I’m real close with Jabrill, me and him are going to be roommates.”

What’s that relationship like? “He’s just cool people. When I went to my all-star game in Florida, I was at my hotel, he hit me up, like ‘where you at?’ That’s my guy.”

Are you more prepared to step in now? “I feel like I could play at my highest level right now. I’m just looking forward to going in and taking a spot. I’m not trying to go in and redshirt. I want to play as soon as possible.”

Will the homesickness be an issue? “I’m only 45 minutes away so I won’t miss the family that much, but I’m excited to be on my own and starting the next segment of my life. It’s something I look forward to one day.”

Who are you closest with on the team and what are they telling you? “Probably (Devin) Funchess and Frank Clark. I was just talking to Funchess last week and he was just telling me about the conditioning. It sounds crazy, he said nobody can prepare for it. That means I’ve got to train twice as hard.

Noah Furbush: LB, Kenton (Ohio)

Did Michigan give you a workout plan to follow? “They gave us a workout manual but, unfortunately, I have not been able to do a lot of the stuff in that because I can’t lift weights a lot of the ways I used to be able to with my wrist, prohibiting me.”

What happened with your wrist? “I broke my wrist and I’m still rehabbing from surgery. … I had it in December. I played the whole season with a big club on my arm, a cast. It was an experience, for sure.”

What did the Michigan coaches think? “Coach Hoke talked about the story at the end of the year when I cut my cast off with a pair of hedge clippers.”

You did that yourself? “Yeah, after the last game. I knew I was going to have surgery so I took it off being sick of it for 15 weeks. It was broken so I was going to get it fixed in surgery anyway.”

Where will you play at U-M? “Nothing’s set in stone but right now it looks like inside linebacker.”

Were you a fan of one school growing up? “Yeah, Kenton is about one hour from Columbus and two hours from Ann Arbor. I honestly had no clue how close Ann Arbor was to Kenton until about a year ago. So that was a huge surprise. I was a huge Jim Tressel/OSU fan. The whole family was. That’s the way I grew up.”

Was it tough to listen to U-M coaches? “No, that was not the case at all. I was star-struck by Michigan. Coach (Mike) Mauk took me down the first time to see everything and I was like a kid in a candy shop. I had no idea what was two hours away from me this whole time.”

Jared Wangler: LB, Warren De La Salle

What are your expectations, given you have a different perspective? “My brother’s there, (my high school teammate) Shane (Morris’) there, they’ve been telling me, just come in, relax, don’t overthink it. It’s a smooth transition. We both went to the same trainer, I’ve been working hard. I shouldn’t be too afraid to go in. I’ve been around the program with my dad (John) playing there, so I’m just excited to go.”

Are you more appreciative because you were committed somewhere else (Penn State) and then committed to U-M later? “I’m just excited to get there. I’ve wanted to play college football my entire life and the fact that I get to play at Michigan is just a great feeling.”

What stands out about your game? “I don’t take a play off and I work my butt off every play. I could care less about individual stuff. I’m all about winning. That’s the bottom line. I want to contribute to the team however I can, whether it’s special teams or whatever. I just want to win.”

Where will you play? “They said SAM (strong-side) linebacker. … The SAMs right now are James Ross, Royce Jenkins-Stone, and Allen Gant and they’re all about 6-1, 225 and I’m 6-1, 224 right now. I’m the same weight. They’re probably a lot stronger because they’ve been in a college weight room, but I’m at about the same size.”

Are you getting better advice from your brother Jack and Shane or your dad? “Probably Jack for the most part. My dad played back when Bo (Schembechler) was the coach, they played old-school football. My dad gives me advice everyday about playing and giving 100% everyday. But Jack is also giving me advice because he’s there right now, with school, what classes to take, what to do, what not to do. … (My dad) thinks he knows everything but he doesn’t realize he was there 100 years ago.”

Jabrill Peppers: DB, Paramus (N.J.) Catholic

This is only a 16-player class. Is it a closer group as a result? “Absolutely. Every time someone committed we started a new group chat, it would be all of us in a group chat, finding out and talking about random things. You can find out a lot about guys. When I went down for my official visit, I already knew these guys’ personalities just by talking to them all the time. I met a couple of them at the O and D All-American game and the Under Armour All-American game. I had a pretty good gist of what kind of guys they were. Michigan does a really good job of recruiting the same kind of guys. We’re all hungry, we all strive for success in every aspect of life and that’s what it’s all about.”

Who are you closest with? “All those guys are my brothers. If I had to pick, I’d say Freddy (Canteen), Lawrence (Marshall), Maurice (Ways).”

Are you promised to start? “Not necessarily. They just told me right now there’s a couple battles that are undecided and I’ve just got to come in and work if I want those spots. As far as offense goes, I don’t think that I’m going to be playing offense right away, maybe later in my career. For now, they just want me to perfect my technique, keep perfecting my craft, learn the defensive scheme and what coach (Greg) Mattison is trying to do before they start moving me around. It’s definitely going to be defensive-focused but I definitely am going to battle for a couple special team jobs.”

Any plans to run track? “As of right now my main focus and priority is football. We have to have a winning season, we have to give the fans what they want to see, we have to get back to Michigan football. I’m all football. Maybe a couple years down the road I’ll try out for the track team, but as of now, we’ve got some things to take care of and they need all my attention and focus.”

Early enrollee Freddy Canteen inspired you? “Absolutely. That just showed what they say, the best guys are going to play. No matter if you’re a junior, sophomore, freshman, if you can get the job done, you’re going to play. Freddy works extremely hard, he’s so technical with his route-running, his speed is phenomenal so they definitely saw all the same things I saw in him. I’m just excited to go up against him in practice everyday to make me better and likewise. It is really exciting. These next four years are going to be very exciting.”

Juwann Bushell-Beatty: OL, Paramus (N.J.) Catholic

What was your development like last year? “Last year I definitely took more time to try to develop myself becoming a more technically sound player. That’s what I want to use. Over the last couple weeks as I’m getting ready, I’ve been really focusing on my technique like I wanted to. At the end of the day you can be as athletic as anybody but you’re not necessarily technically sound.”

Specifics from coach (Darrell) Funk? “I have coaches out here I’ve been working with, they’re pretty experienced telling me what to work on for college. … I’ve been taking everything, hand placement, foot speed, a little bit of everything and try to bring everything to the level where I can give myself the best opportunity to play as soon as possible.”

Nice to go with Jabrill, your high school teammate? Me and Jabrill play two different positions. It’s not even two positions on the same side but two different sides of the ball so during practice we don’t necessarily play against each other. Going with him is a cool experience. I’m glad I can go up there with a good friend.”

Any hidden talents? “I’m just a normal dude. If being big is talented, that’s what I got.”

Have you remade your body? “You could say that. … During the All-American Game I weighed in at 350. Now I’m down to 315. Just determination and focus. I knew I had to do. The biggest thing for me was, I’m not going to go into college overweight. That’s not what I was going for. I want to go and be efficient.”

How did you lose the weight? “I dieted, I changed up my eating habits. I had to step away from food sometimes. You don’t get to that weight without eating too much. Sometimes I would focus on what I needed to do. … Definitely I cut out a lot of junk food. Chips, soda, all that kind of stuff. All the simple stuff. I ate more protein and good carbs. I also started working out more. I started running more.”

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Class of ’14

Class of ’14

■ Ian Bunting, TE, Hinsdale, Ill.

■ Juwann Bushell-Beatty, OL, Paramus, N.J.

■ Freddy Canteen, WR, Elkton, Md.

■ Mason Cole, OL, Tarpon Springs, Fla.

■ Michael Ferns, LB, St. Clairsville, Ohio

■ Noah Furbush, OLB, Kenton, Ohio

■ Drake Harris, WR, Grand Rapids

■ Lawrence Marshall, DE, Southfield

■ Bryan Mone, DT, Salt Lake City

■ Brady Pallante, DT, Naples, Fla.

■ Jabrill Peppers, DB, Paramus, N.J.

■ Wilton Speight, QB, Richmond, Va.

■ Jared Wangler, LB, Warren

■ Brandon Watson, DB, Elkton, Md.

■ Maurice Ways, WR, Birmingham

■ Chase Winovich, LB, Jefferson Hills, Pa.

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