Enough with the “Jabrill Peppers for Heisman” talk.
A lot of media members peg Michigan’s “do-it-all” super (red shirt) sophomore as one of the best players in the nation.
There are likely two reasons for that:
- Beyond Lamar Jackson, there aren’t many other worthy candidates out there. As a result, the media needs someone to help them create a compelling “Heisman Race” story.
- People are too blinded by the fact that he can play 10 different positions that they fail to recognize that he is only good, not great, at each of those positions.
The first reason is a topic for another day. I’d like to paint a better picture of just how “good” Peppers really is at each position he plays.
His impact at each position is no greater than the impact of any other teammate that plays that position.
Peppers is not a Heisman-caliber player.
People like to compare Peppers to Charles Woodson, who became the only defensive player to win the Heisman in 1997. Woodson played defense, offense and special teams, just like Peppers does. However, Woodson was at the top or near the top of most defensive categories that season, both on his team and nationally.
Woodson led the team with seven interceptions (including a few very acrobatic picks), which was good for second in the nation. He also finished the ’97 season with 11 receptions for 231 and a receiving touchdown, as well as a touchdown on the ground.
My Campus Pressbox colleague Mitch Gatzke thinks these comparisons have only been drawn because Woodson also played at Michigan. That’s really the only comparison that can be made.
Defensively, Peppers (listed as a linebacker on the depth chart) leads the team in solo tackles, but is third in total tackles behind fellow linebackers Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray. Both Gedeon and McCray have .5 sacks more than Peppers.
Peppers does have more tackles than each defensive lineman on the team, but there are four defensive linemen with more sacks than him.
How about defending passes? Peppers is eighth on the team in passes defended and doesn’t have an interception.
On the offensive side of the ball, Peppers is fifth on the team in rushing yards (163) and rushing touchdowns (3).
Peppers does do a nice job returning punts. His 15.2 yards per return average is good for seventh in the nation. He, like Woodson in ‘97, has returned one for a touchdown.
Peppers’ all-around effectiveness is definitely a big part of Michigan’s success, but remember last season when Christian McCaffrey led his team in rushing yards, receiving yards and touchdowns, as well as kick and punt return yardage, and still finished second in the Heisman voting results? No, he didn’t play defense, but he was the best player on the team in several categories.
Without McCaffrey, Stanford would not have had nearly as much success as they did. Without Peppers, Michigan would still have players to fill those voids.
So, go ahead — try to convince me that a defensive player that doesn’t lead his team in total tackles, sacks, passes defended, interceptions, forced fumbles or fumble recoveries should win the Heisman, especially when he also doesn’t lead his team in a single offensive category either.
An invite to the ceremony due to the lack of other dynamic players this year? Maybe.
He wouldn’t make my invite list, though.
E-mail Evan at evan [dot] skilliter [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @evanskilliter.
Photo: Maize & Blue Nation, Flickr