By: Will Burchfield
Throughout his three years in Ann Arbor, Jabrill Peppers drew comparisons to former Michigan great Charles Woodson. Peppers has moved on now, but another player of Woodson’s mold is set to enter the Wolverines’ program next season: Donovan Peoples-Jones.
“I’ve watched Donovan since his freshman year, he is a Charles Woodson-type athlete as a wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner. 4.4 legit (40), he’s almost 6’3, 190. This is a big-time guy who could be also like Peppers in the Heisman race in a couple years. He’s that talented,” college football recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said on Monday.
Peoples-Jones, a product of Cass Tech and the top-ranked wide receiver in the country, committed to Michigan in December. He is the No. 1 player in the Wolverines’ star-studded 2017 class, one that’s already 26 players deep.
“Michigan’s having a knockout year. They got big numbers and big-time ball players,” said Lemming. “They’re doing a fantastic job, they’re in the top five and could even move up, just depends on how they finish. I know they’re after a couple more players, but it’s a terrific all-around class right now, one of the best they’ve had in years.”
Lemming attributed Michigan’s recruiting success to Jim Harbaugh, who will seemingly do anything to impress the players he covets.
“There hasn’t been anybody like that at all. PJ Fleck is a bit of a Jim Harbaugh-lite right now, I think he’s got similar-type abilities to find things that can maybe rub the other coaches the wrong way but (are) completely legal and really help the recruiting,” Lemming said.
Michigan announced plans last week for a football trip to Rome later this spring, a move that Lemming expects to pay dividends in recruiting.
“Going to Rome was a stroke of genius because the ballplayers love it. Recruits see that and say, ‘Hey, where are we going to go next year, London?’ Riding go-carts with kids, it kind of goes down to their level and it really works when you’re recruiting. You always have to look for that edge and Harbaugh’s definitely found the edge,” Lemming said.
Much of the Wolverines’ 2017 class is comprised of in-state players. That includes the top three players in Michigan and six of the top ten overall, according to Rivals.com. Michigan State, on the other hand, reeled in just three of the top ten recruits in the state.
“Right now it’s that Harbaugh effect that Michigan State has to combat,” said Lemming. “Nothing that maybe a big victory on the field can’t cure over the next year or two, but right now Harbaugh’s really getting a lot of the publicity and gaining a lot of traction in recruiting so he’s awfully tough to beat head-to-head, particularly in your own state.”