With Wisconsin preparing for a highly anticipated road game at fellow unbeaten Michigan on Saturday, coach Paul Chryst is getting a good look at film of Wolverines star Jabrill Peppers. And he's come to the conclusion, even after his team faced LSU's Leonard Fournette a few weeks ago, that Peppers is the best player in college football at the moment.
"Clearly, as an athlete, he's special but I think the football part of him, the understanding. ... He's got to be the best player in college football right now," Chryst said Monday, per the MLive Media Group.
Given Chryst's coaching background on the offensive side of the ball, he should be all the more aware of what a disruptive linebacker Peppers can be. The redshirt sophomore has already made 9.5 tackles for loss -- a strong season's worth -- in just four games. Of course, Peppers' ability to return kickoffs, punts, and play a little offense makes him extra dangerous. But Peppers has flourished in a new role at linebacker after spending his first two years in the program primarily as a defensive back.
It's not unusual for college coaches to spread praise of upcoming opponents extra thick. Just last week, UCLA coach Jim Mora pulled the lever for Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey as the top player in the nation, days before facing the Cardinal.
As for Fournette, who rushed for 138 yards on 23 carries in a Week 1 loss to the Badgers at Lambeau Field, Chryst recognized him as "one of the best in the country," prior to that matchup.
Peppers, McCaffrey and Fournette will all be three years removed from high school after the season, and thus could be available in the 2017 NFL Draft if they apply for early draft eligibility. NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote a scouting report of Fournette, McCaffrey and Peppers before the season.
Chryst, however, is only worried about one of them this week.
And he should be.