Mailbag: Peppers, Woodson, QBs, flow

Jabrill Peppers shares some characteristics with former U-M great Charles Woodson. Getty Images, ESPN

Signing day is over. Spring football starts in a few weeks. At least we have the Olympics to keep us company.

Here’s our Friday Michigan mailbag.

John Ghawi: Is Jabrill Peppers the next Charles Woodson?

A: OK, let’s look at the measurables first. In 1995, when Woodson was a freshman, he was listed at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds on the roster. Currently, Peppers is 6-foot-1, 205 pounds. Peppers’ 40-yard dash time is 4.4 seconds. In a 1996 Sports Illustrated article about Woodson, I also found his time to be 4.4 seconds. So, clearly the extra 20 pounds that Peppers has on Woodson hasn’t affected his speed.

As a freshman, Woodson played only on the defensive side of the ball, recording 45 tackles and five interceptions. It was in his sophomore year that he started returning punts/kicks and playing on offense (including one pass as a sophomore during the Alabama game). Coaches have said they just want Peppers to get to Michigan first. They’ll begin with him defensively and as he’s ready to play elsewhere and as the team needs it, they certainly won’t hold him back. So, all of that brings me to your question as to Peppers’ potential. Does he have the physical ability and attitude to be the kind of impact player Woodson was at Michigan? Yes, I think he does. However, a lot of that will depend on how he acclimates himself to college life, the choices he makes, avoiding injury and how much freedom he’s given on the field. Not all of that is in his control, and we’ve seen some of the best athletes fall victim to those things. So, is it possible? Yes. Would it be good for Michigan? Absolutely. Having a player like Woodson would be good for Michigan in every way.

David, NYC: If Peppers comes in ready to start do we move Blake Countess inside to the nickel? Raymon Taylor is strictly a boundary CB, right?

A: Honestly, I think the better place to put Peppers would be free safety, both because of his skills and the lack of depth for the Wolverines there. It will give him the freedom to roam the field a little more and make big stops. I could see Countess moving to the nickel, though his biggest asset next season will be off the statistics chart in the leadership category. It’ll be a very young secondary group and the Wolverines will need a vocal upperclassman leader. And yes, Taylor is a boundary corner -- you’re answering your own questions here -- and will be used in that same position next season. The field corner position will likely be a battle between rising sophomores Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling.

Patrick, Florida: How open do you think the quarterback battle really is?

A: I said this earlier this week, but I do believe there was a decent amount of coach-\speak in that sentiment. People would’ve gone crazy if Hoke had said “Yep, Devin Gardner is definitely still our quarterback,” considering Gardner is still injured and Shane Morris played well in the bowl game. But I think it’s Gardner’s job to lose. He has the experience factor. He has an ability to extend plays. And with an offseason spent really focusing on his footwork and decision making, I think some of those mistakes we saw this year (throwing late over the middle is NEVER a good idea) will disappear. But Morris is right there, champing at the bit. If Gardner doesn’t improve in his decision-making, then perhaps Morris’ ability will trump Garner’s experience and play-extension skills.

Timothy: Your early favorite for MLTF (Most Likely To Flow) in the 2014 LB class?

A: The Wolverines signed four linebackers: Michael Ferns, Chase Winovich, Noah Furbush and Jared Wangler. Easy. Wangler. His hair is already a little bit longer and seeing that his father played and his older brother plays for Michigan, he has clearly heard of the legendary flowful Wolverines. He went to Catholic school, where flow was probably looked down upon, so maybe by the time he gets to Michigan he’s going to want to let it grow out. Plus, look at photos of John Wangler when he was at Michigan … that man had some flow. Jared has genetics on his side. Ferns, Winovich and Furbush all seem like they’d be ones to keep a short, clean haircut.