By: Will Burchfield
There are games when it seems like Jabrill Peppers never comes off the field.
According to Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, that may be the reality moving forward.
“Can he play every play? He might, he might be able to play every play, especially with all the TV timeouts, maybe its possible,” Harbaugh told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket on Thursday. “But we do try to have a bit of a pitch count with him. But he elevates, he finds another rung every time he goes out there.”
That was certainly true in Michigan’s 45-28 win over Colorado last Saturday, when Peppers starred on defense, offense and special teams. He finished with nine tackles (3.5 for loss) and 204 all-purpose yards, including a punt return for a touchdown.
Harbaugh knows he should try to limit Peppers’ playing time to an extent, but the dynamic red-shirt sophomore is beginning to convince his coach otherwise.
“I think you do, common sense tells you you do and logic says that you do and should, but he’s special and he defies common sense, he defies logic at times,” Harbaugh said.
He pointed to a defensive play that Peppers made against Colorado as evidence. In short, Peppers blew up a screen-play for a loss, tackling the receiver immediately after he had caught the pass.
“He just shot out of a cannon. He ran about a 0.7 13-yard dash right at the slot receiver and he got there so fast,” Harbaugh said. “Before the receiver was able to get in an athletic position and make a move, (Peppers) had covered 13 yards and made that tackle in the backfield.
“That was defying logic a lot, and it’s not hyperbole or anything, but he does defy what you know what usual football players can do.”
Along with Peppers, Harbaugh said he has been impressed by the continued development of freshman defensive end Rashan Gary. The number-one recruit in the nation is proving to be as hard-working as he is talented.
“It showed up in a sack, a hustle play, a fourth down stop (against Colorado),” Harbaugh said. “He gives a lot of effort per play and that has the respect of everybody.”
No. 4 Michigan will open up Big 10 play against Penn State on Saturday at the Big House (3:30 ET, WWJ Newsradio 950). Harbaugh is hopeful the Wolverines will have two important seniors back on the field, in cornerback Jourdan Lewis and defensive end Taco Charlton. Both have been sidelined by injuries.
“God willing, if the creek doesn’t rise, we’ll get Jourdan back and Taco back,” Harbaugh said. “If all goes well, they’ll be playing. You like to see how they feel the next day, what kind of soreness they have or how it is the day after a practice. So we don’t know that yet, but we’re hopeful.”
In sizing up Penn State, Harbaugh indicated the biggest challenge will be defending sophomore running back Saquon Barkley and the Nittany Lions’ up-tempo offense.
Barkley has six touchdowns through three games and is averaging over five yards per carry.
“He really is a complete back, he is a special football player and our team understands the task of stopping Penn State’s offense,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know if it can be done – really stop them. They’re going to make pkays because they have a lot of talented football players and a really good scheme but our guys are up for the task and up for the challenge.”
Penn State enters play at 2-1, with wins over Kent State and Temple and a close lose to Pitt.