By: Will Burchfield
Through six games of the 2016 season, Jabrill Peppers has defended his reputation as one of the best players in college football.
Just not according to Peppers himself.
“I don’t think I’ve been playing as well as people say I’ve been playing,” Peppers said on Tuesday, per the Detroit Free Press. “If I had to give myself a grade, I’d probably say C-minus. Definitely not where I want to be or where the team needs me to be.”
As expected, Peppers has contributed in every phase of the game for the No. 3-ranked Wolverines. He has anchored a defense that’s allowing the fewest points per game and yards per game in the country and has continually shined on special teams. And his role on offense, though limited so far, figures to expand moving forward.
But Peppers hasn’t been satisfied with his play, particularly on defense.
“I’m my worst critic,” he said. “Blown assignments that I missed. You guys can’t tell from watching the game, but when we get in the film room, I know what I missed. I try to solve all my mistakes with effort and aggression. That helps a lot but I still make mistakes. I’m hard on myself, I’ve always been that way.”
C-minus or not, Peppers has emerged as one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy. After Michigan’s 78-0 win over Rutgers on Oct. 8, a game in which Peppers ran for 74 yards and two touchdowns and chipped in two tackles on defense, Jim Harbaugh said the do-everything red-shirt sophomore deserves to win the award.
But Peppers isn’t concerned with all that.
“At the end of the day you can’t get caught in what people say about you good or bad. You’ve got to stay 10 toes down. Just keep improving every week, that’s what my mindset is.”
“I’m just trying to play the best ball I can play,” he added. “Everything else will fall into place. I’ll take wins over a Heisman any day.”
Wins have been in high supply for Michigan so far, much to the satisfaction of Peppers. And as far as his teammates are concerned, his harsh self-evaluation is all a bunch of fluff.
“I think that’s just for (the media,)” said cornerback Jourdan Lewis. “He knows he’s playing great football. Everybody knows that.”