Jabrill Peppers is a real Heisman Trophy candidate, but can he actually win?

By Bill Bender, Source MSN Sports

Jabrill Peppers finally has beenpinned down, flanked on all sides by lights, cameras, microphones, cell phones and notebooks.

He spent the previous four hours running free around every corner at Spartan Stadium, a stage on which he played 10 different positions in No. 2 Michigan’s 32-23 victory against their bitter in-state rivals on Oct. 29. Now, the Wolverines’ uncontainable starhemmed in the media center pressed to explain how he does everything.

The game served as another Heisman Trophy case-builder for Peppers, the best all-around player in college football who evokes so many comparisons yet somehow finds a way to exceed them. Four hours of Peppers against the Spartans is more than enough to see that from every angle.

Michigan falls behind 7-0. Peppers ties the game at quarterback out of the Wildcat when he beats a defender with a leaping TD at the pylon.

Michigan State goes for it on fourth down. Peppers rushes from the middle of the field to sack Brian Lewerke and kill the drive.

Michigan State goes for a two-point conversion with one second left.Peppers screams in from the outside, scoops it up a fumbled pitch and sprints 97 yards to the imaginary finish line to close out the Spartans.

It’s Peppers, Peppers and more Peppers.

Peppers, wearing a backward Jumpman Michigan cap and unzipped sweatshirt, tries to explain this whirlwind in simple terms we can never understand. He blanks out while he plays. The coaching staff puts him in the right position. He’s out there to make plays.

“That’s what we thrive off of in the defensive room,” Peppers said. “Just make a play. Make a play when we need to make a play. Make a play just to make a play. Just make the play.”

Peppers laughs at that point while that thought registers. Peppers makes plays for all of those reasons, and he’s made enough to become the most interesting Heisman Trophy candidate in years heading into November. This isn’t a gimmick.

“I feel like the Heisman Trophy is wide open and whoever gets hot in the last four or five weeks is going to have a chance to win it,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. “So September and October are about positioning yourself, and November is about winning it.”

Will that candidacy register with the media like it did almost 20 years ago with another once-in-a-generation talent at Michigan? Or is Peppers the best all-around player who will have to settle behind quarterbacks such as Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Washington’s Jake Browning and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson?

“I think he does, but I think a lot of it ties in where Michigan lies in the College Football Playoff conversation,” said Cory McCartney, the Fox Sports South analyst and author of “The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners,” which comes out this month. “If they stay in it, I think he legitimately gets to New York and could make it close. I would be surprised if he wins, though, just because of how prolific Lamar Jackson has been so far.”

So, just how close can Peppers make this?

“Jim Thorpe —it just came to me,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Only player I can think of comparing Jabrill to.”

That’s the loftiest comparison possible, but Harbaugh went for it after watching Peppers during the 78-0 victory against Rutgers on Oct. 8. The highlight-reel playcame on a punt return touchdown that didn’t count. Peppers spun through two defenders and ducked under another one before sprinting to the end zone.

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