One of the top freshmen in the Class of 2014 will be adding some additional responsibilities his first season at the collegiate level. And, somewhere, Charles Woodson is smiling over the development.
While not really a surprise, and saying “we want improvement” in that phase of the game, Michigan’s Brady Hoke confirmed Friday that star 2014 signee Jabrill Peppers will be utilized as the Wolverines’ primary punt returner. After averaging just over six yards a return last season, one of the fastest players in the most recent recruiting class certainly won’t do anything but help that unit.
“That’ll be Jabrill,” the head coach said when asked about the job of returning punts. “I think, No. 1, we’re putting a lot of our best guys on the field. I think that’s a plus. I think we’ve had some (punt returners) in the last three years that have been decent, and sometimes maybe we haven’t fielded the ball as well as we should sometimes.”
In addition to his punt-return duties, Peppers will play an integral role in UM’s secondary this season, whether it be as a starter or a nickel cornerback. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said a couple of weeks ago that Peppers wouldn’t just be handed a job; with game day a week away, the defensive back has done just that.
Peppers was a consensus five-star recruit, rated as the No. 1 corner and the No. 3 player at any position in the country. Peppers served as the highest-rated recruit UM has ever signed since the founding of Rivals‘ back in 2002. The previous high? Ryan Mallett as the No. 4 player in the Class of 2007.
Oh yeah, and as I said, he’s kind of a fast human being.
Earlier this month, Florida lost one of the most experienced members of its defense to a season-ending injury. This week, they have reportedly lost one of their youngsters on that side of the ball as well, albeit to one not as serious.
Citing a source close to the program, the Gainesville Sun has reported that Nick Smith underwent surgery on his left knee Monday to repair a torn meniscus. It’s unclear how or when the linebacker suffered the injury.
As a result of the medical procedure, Smith will be sidelined for a period of at least six weeks. Such a timeline would not only keep Smith out for the whole of summer camp, but for, at minimum, the 2017 opener Sept. 2 against Michigan in Arlington as well.
It should be noted that UF has yet to publicly address what if any health issues Smith may need to overcome.
A three-star member of the Gators’ 2017 recruiting class, Smith was rated as the No. 79 outside linebacker in the country. While Smith has been expected to contribute immediately on special teams, his expected absence early on exacerbates the dearth of available talent in UF’s linebacking corps.
From the Sun:
The loss of Smith is a blow to Florida’s depth at linebacker, a position that returns just four players who have started a game for the Gators.
The opening of the Big Ten’s Media Days Monday brought some welcome news for Rutgers fans.
One of the most explosive and productive players in the conference, Janarion Grant went down with a serious-looking ankle injury — at the end of a 76-yard touchdown — late in the first half of a Week 4 game against Iowa that ultimately ended the wide receiver’s 2016 season. Grant was in non-contact mode this past spring, leading some to wonder whether he’d be available for summer camp or even the start of the upcoming season.
Yesterday, Chris Ash put any such fears to rest by declaring Grant completely recovered less than two weeks ahead of the start of camp.
“He’s 100 percent… He’s had a great summer,” the head coach said according to nj.com. “He was limited through the spring semester, but this summer he’s been pretty much full go for the majority of the summer. He looks great, he’s in great shape, he’s put weight back on. We’re obviously excited to have him back.”
At the time of the injury, Grant led the Scarlet Knights with 15 receptions and was second on the team with 143 yards rushing. His 562 all-purpose yards were tops in the Big Ten entering Week 4 play last year.
He had six touchdowns in those three-plus games and did it in a quartet of ways — rushing (three), punt return (one), kick return (one) and passing (one).
Suffice to say, Grant was named as part of the Hornung Award watch list earlier this month. He’s on the watch list for the prestigious Maxwell Award as well.
In a day packed full of Big Ten moves becoming official, Ohio State has added a roster move of its own.
Urban Meyer revealed at the conference’s media gathering in Chicago on Monday that defensive lineman Darius Slade will not return to the team.
A 3-star recruit out of Montclair, N.J., Slade (42) redshirted in 2014 and missed the ’16 campaign with a lower leg injury. He racked up seven appearances in 2015.
Slade was expected to back up Sam Hubbard at defensive end.
Meyer said that he “thinks” Slade is off to Arizona State. If that’s true, Slade would have two years of eligibility to play as a Sun Devil unless the NCAA approved a waive for him.
Indiana running back Camion Patrick and linebacker T.J. Simmons will not return to the team this fall after being granted medical hardships, the program announced Monday. Both players would be fifth-year seniors in 2017.
Simmons appeared in 37 games with 35 starts before suffering a season-ending injury that knocked him out of the 2016 campaign entirely. He collected 213 tackles, six sacks, 16.5 TFLs, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery as a Hoosier. Simmons will remain with the program as a student assistant.
“T.J. was a three-year starter and a tough kid that I was looking forward to coaching,” head coach Tom Allen said in a statement. “He did everything that he could to get himself back from his knee injury, but he was unable to reach a place where he could consistently play. T.J. is excited about his new role as a student assistant coach in the weight room and on the field. He will be helping his teammates get better. T.J. has such a passion for the game and this program, and I am thrilled to have him help us breakthrough.”
Patrick arrived from East Mississippi Community College — of Last Chance U. fame — and proceeded to sustain injuries to his ACL and a shoulder. He caught six passes for 154 yards with one receiving touchdown and one rushing score for Indiana.
“Unfortunately, Camion dealt with multiple injuries during his time at IU and was never able to fully recover,” Allen said. “He has worked hard in the classroom. Camion has battled to get back following each injury, but his body has let him down. He recognizes that. We recognize that, and we want to help him finish strong in the classroom and help him create a bright future for himself.”