Former San Francisco Giants center fielder Willie Mays is a baseball legend for a number of reasons, including his ability to excel in all facets of the game. Michigan sophomore Jabrill Peppers has one of the most versatile roles in college football, such that Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh invoked Mays' name in describing just how effective Peppers can be not only on both sides of the ball, but on special teams as well.
"Yes, it's realistic to think that," Harbaugh said on Tuesday, according to The Detroit News, when asked if Peppers could settle into a full-time role on offense. "He's such a good player. I can think of five different positions he'd be really good at in football. Could someone be the Willie Mays of football? Could somebody be the five-tool player, the five-position player? Maybe it will end up being Jabrill Peppers."
Defensively, Peppers has been an invaluable member of the Wolverines' secondary with 40 tackles and 10 pass breakups. He has also lined up at running back, quarterback and wide receiver, though he hasn't (yet) attempted a pass, and serves as a punt returner and kickoff returner for Michigan as well.
"Maybe we'll find his absolute best position as you go along, but it's interesting to think about and consider the possibilities," Harbaugh said. "You've seen him this year, he's played corner, he's played nickel, he's played safety, he's been a running back, he's been a quarterback, he's been a slot receiver, a wide receiver, he's been a punt return and a kick returner, (nine) positions right there."
As a true sophomore, Peppers won't be able to apply for NFL draft eligibility until 2017, at the earliest.
As Michigan's rivalry game against Ohio State approaches on Saturday, Harbaugh noted Peppers' versatility can create preparation difficulty for opponents. There is only so much that could be done to change a player's role during game-week preparation, particularly late in the season. But Harbaugh isn't placing any limits on what Peppers might do for the Wolverines in 2016, saying "Year two may get a little crazy."
Willie Mays-crazy, we can only hope.