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Published: Wednesday, 2/5/2014 - Updated: 6 months ago

Peppers to lead small, talented UM class

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR — When it comes to landing football recruits, Tom Luginbill believes the luster of Michigan football hasn’t worn off.

He would have been alarmed, however, if members of Michigan’s incoming freshman class had begun dropping like flies once Michigan’s losses began to accumulate during the 2013 season.

“To this point, there hasn’t been a lot of negativity,” said Luginbill, ESPN’s recruiting director. “We certainly haven’t seen defections like crazy and kids responding negatively from an unexpected subpar year.”

Recruits, Luginbill said, have remained steadfast in their commitment to the program.

“If we were seeing guys jump once every three weeks or once a month, and all the sudden a lot of negativity snowballing on them, that would be a concern,” he said. “But that isn’t the case.”

Today is National Signing Day, and Michigan is expected to have a 16-player incoming class that will include Jabrill Peppers, a cornerback from Paramus, N.J., whom several recruiting services rank as the No. 3 recruit in the country.

Peppers wavered once since he verbally committed to Michigan in May — in November, he released a statement that he was considering taking official visits to other schools on the basis that UM coach Brady Hoke’s job status was up in the air.

But after an official visit to Ann Arbor in December, Peppers reaffirmed his UM commitment. The five-star cornerback will be part of a class that’s considered small in comparison to Michigan’s previous classes and its Big Ten counterparts.

The class is expected to include seven four-star players and addresses Michigan’s long-term needs at wide receiver and linebacker. Seven players have already enrolled at Michigan this semester, and nine more are expected to return National Letters of Intent today to UM’s coaching staff.

Peppers is the ace of this year’s class; Josh Helmholdt, Rivals.com’s Midwest recruiting analyst, already projects Peppers as a player who can be key to a program’s future.

“He can be a guy like Charles Woodson or Denard Robinson,” Helmholdt said. “I’m not saying he absolutely will, but he has that type of potential. Grabbing him is crucial for Michigan, not only to address talent and depth but because of what he can do beyond the field.”

While ESPN.com ranks Michigan’s incoming class at No. 12, Rivals.com ranks it No. 29, Scout No. 23, and 247Sports No. 16.

Michigan’s smaller class, Helmholdt said, factors into that lower ranking for the Wolverines. So does the recruiting style of Michigan’s coaching staff. Its earliest commitment from the 2014 class came in August of 2012 from middle linebacker Michael Ferns, and the latest came in August from outside linebacker Jared Wangler.

“Since Brady Hoke has been there, Michigan has always had a game plan of getting commitments early,” Helmholdt said. “Other teams have caught up, but that’s always been their ‘M.O.’ — recruit early.”



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