The Wolverine

February 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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FEBRUARY 2017 THE WOLVERINE 19 and declared for the NFL Draft Jan. 10. Although he only donned the winged helmet for two seasons, he'll definitely be remembered as one of the most ver- satile and talented Wolverines ever. He heads the postseason rundown of Michigan's top 25 performers in 2016, voted on by the staff of The Wolverine. 1. JABRILL PEPPERS Redshirt Sophomore, LB Peppers wound up with 72 tack- les on the season, a whopping 16 of them behind the line of scrimmage. He forced one fumble and secured a crucial interception at Ohio State — the first of his career. He also secured four sacks as Brown's key chess piece. He did more than play defense, though, averaging 6.2 yards per carry in 27 tries as a wildcat quarterback. He av- eraged 26.0 yards per attempt on kick- off returns and 14.8 on punt returns, including a 54-yard touchdown bolt. Bo Schembechler famously said, "No one man is bigger than the team," and that's true — but it will take more than one man, in terms of duties, to replace No. 5. 2. JOURDAN LEWIS Senior, CB Lewis earned consensus first-team All-America honors, became the Big Ten's Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year and set a new Michigan record for career passes broken up (44). The Jim Thorpe Award winner missed the first three games of the sea- son with an injury, but returned with a vengeance. Lewis managed 25 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. Although avoided nearly all season by quarterbacks, he still managed 11 passes broken up to secure the Michigan career record while pick- ing off a pair of passes. He'll be another of the toughest Wolverines to replace. 3. TACO CHARLTON Senior, DE Charlton came on to enjoy a massive senior season in Brown's system, mov- ing up significantly in NFL eyes, ac- cording to draft followers. The All-Big Ten performer missed two games with injury, but still wound up with a team- leading 9.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries, to go along with 13 tackles for loss among 43 stops. The lanky defensive end also broke up a pair of passes, becoming a con- stant presence off the edge for the Wol- verines. His 2.5 sacks on Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, among nine tackles overall, helped give the Wolverines a chance to win the game in Columbus that they nearly pulled out. 4. CHRIS WORMLEY Fifth-Year Senior, DE Wormley became a captain in his final season as a Wolverine and took those duties to heart, not only shep- herding Michigan's younger players but also stepping up on the field itself. His six sacks stood second on the team, behind only Charlton, and nine of his 40 tackles were for loss. Wormley posted five quarterback hurries while swatting down three kicks by opponents. He also grasped the reality that Michigan football will continue on long after he's not partici- pating, and left a legacy by grooming the next group of Wolverines. 5. WILTON SPEIGHT Redshirt Sophomore, QB Speight changed the outside nar- rative, from Michigan doesn't have a quarterback to who is this guy? An after- thought to some, the third-year Wol- verine began taking charge in spring ball, secured his spot in the fall and directed Jim Harbaugh's second U-M squad within three plays of perfection. Peppers finished the season where he started it on The Wolverine's countdown of the top 25 players, at No. 1, after making an impact in all three facets of the game. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Senior defensive end Taco Charlton barely played in the season opener and missed the next two games due to injury, but racked up 9.5 sacks in his final 10 games. His average of 0.86 sacks per game ranked 14th nationally. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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