Maybe Jabrill Peppers and Dalvin Cook will meet in the NFL.
They sure didn’t match up on Friday night in the Capital One Orange Bowl. Peppers, Michigan’s All-America linebacker, missed the game against Cook’s Florida State Seminoles because of an apparent hamstring injury.
Cook and Peppers are projected to go in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
But Peppers reportedly aggravated his hamstring injury during practice on Thursday, although nothing was disclosed at the time.
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A 6-1, 205-pound redshirt sophomore from East Orange, New Jersey, Peppers is expected to turn pro after this game, giving up his final two years of college eligibility for a contract in the range of four years and $25 million, assuming his draft stock holds up.
Peppers led Michigan with 16 tackles for losses. He had 72 total stops, which tied for second on the team, and had four sacks and one interception. He also returned 10 kickoffs for a 26.0 average and 21 punts for a 14.8 average and one touchdown.
With Peppers out, Michigan suffered quite a bit on Friday. Earlier this week, FSU offensive coordinator Randy Sanders explained just how valuable Peppers was to Michigan.
“He allows [Michigan] to essentially play nickel defense all the time,” said Sanders, alluding to Peppers’ versatile ability to cover and also rush the passer or stop the run. “You see the instincts — he’s hard to fool. He doesn’t bite on fakes.”
Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown said he believes Peppers is the best overall player in college football.
“I can put him in the pass rush or I can substitute him on any guy [in coverage],” Brown said. “We have four or five concepts where he’s aligned on different guys. You just have to make the call, and he’s over there or over there.”
But with Peppers unable to go, Michigan turned to relatively inexperienced players, including Josh Metellus, a freshman out of Pembroke Pines Flanagan High.
Brown is on record as being a Metellus fan, but he was planning on developing him further starting this spring. Having to turn to the freshman unexpectedly on Friday was certainly difficult.
“This Josh Metellus — we’re really excited about him,” Brown said earlier this week. “He can kind of be the poor man’s Jabrill Peppers.”
On Friday night against FSU, Brown really had no choice but to play the poor man’s Peppers.
The real one wasn’t available.