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Thursday Morning Brews (1/22/15)

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Impact of Peppers' Move

Since Harbaugh was offficially brought in on December 30th, the dividends have been swift and considerable. Energy is back. Recruits are talking about Michigan. A coaching staff has been assembled that has NFL experience, recruiting savvy, and current schemes.

Another thing Harbaugh has purportedly done is moved Jabrill Peppers to safety. This move has a lot of implications for the season and for Peppers' career. This will not be like the Hoke era, where players were moved from position to position randomly. If Peppers is indeed going to safety, he'll likely be there for a long time.

Is it a good move? Well, conventional wisdom says a corner is more valuable than a safety. Michiganian wisdom also says that Charles Woodson played corner, so Jabrill should. A more abstract wisdom says that since Jabrill can play both exceptionally well, it's impossible to know for sure.

Still, this is probably a very good move for the Wolverines, and there are several reasons. For one, safety is becoming a more important position. Most passing concepts will try to get their athletic receivers downfield to fight for balls with either faster, shorter cornerbacks or slower, less skilled safeties. It's an approach that works very well. With Peppers roaming the backfield, though, the responsibilities of all the other defensive backs become more manageable.

Another is the impact Peppers can have in run defense. Because he can cover so much ground, and follow sweeps to the outside, Michigan gets to throw more bodies at stopping the run. Yes, there's already an athletic, instinctive front seven - that a year ago held its own with anyone in the country - but also a pair of run-stopping safeties behind them that can run sideline-to-sideline. The opportunity for a hybrid eight- or nine-man box out of base personnel helps against up-tempo, spread-to-run offenses without sacrificing the deep pass.

Also, this one move helps give Michigan's defense an identity. It's hard-hitting, fast, and ready for big plays. It's a smashmouth, pass-capable defense with an attitude that all the great defenses had. Peppers will be able to force turnovers in ways that press corners cannot. He'll be able to put his hat on a lot of ball-carriers, but even before the moment the tackle is made, he gets receivers to think twice before they catch the ball, he makes runners hesitate with their angles, and of course he makes quarterbacks wonder where he's going to be once the ball is snapped and the pass is thrown.

This move is gaudy, in a Harbaugh-esque way. It helps shore up a key weakness in Michigan's defense, one that already allowed the fourth-fewest points in the Big Ten. And it helps everyone around Jabrill play better. It's the best of all worlds.

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