Associated Press, December 30, 2016
(AP) Jabrill Peppers gave Michigan a little of everything this season.
He had nothing to give the Wolverines in the Orange Bowl.
The star linebacker – one of 15 positions the school gives him credit for playing this season – was a late scratch from No. 6 Michigan's lineup when the Wolverines lost to No. 10 Florida State 33-32 in the Orange Bowl on Friday night. Peppers hurt his left hamstring during the week, and was ruled out after trying to warm up before the game.
"It was disappointing I couldn't be out there," Peppers said. "We worked too hard to not come away with something. The fact we couldn't send these seniors out the right way. The fact that I couldn't help my team play. That just hurts."
And now the question becomes whether he has played his last game for the Wolverines. Peppers is widely tabbed as a potential first-round pick if he decides to enter the NFL draft early.
Peppers said he has not decided.
"He's the ultimate team player," Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said earlier in December when asked about Peppers. "Our teammates appreciate him for that and we're really happy for his success."
Harbaugh said Peppers was hurt leaping for a ball in practice. ESPN cameras in the Wolverines' locker room captured footage of him grabbing at his left hamstring before the game. Peppers also moved somewhat gingerly at times in warmups, favoring his left leg while trying to move around as coaches kept a close eye on him.
A pair of marquee college players – LSU's Leonard Fournette and Stanford's Christian McCaffrey – decided to sit out bowl games this season, protecting themselves from injury before embarking on their pro careers. But Peppers said he wasn't thinking about 2017 when the decision was made for him not to play.
"I have insurance," Peppers said. "I don't know if anybody knows about that process. … But no, my future didn't play any role in this. I still don't even know what I'm going to do yet."
Peppers was fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting this season. He won Big Ten player of the year honors as its top defensive player, top linebacker and top return specialist.
But he was kept out of the spotlight in the days leading up to the bowl game, which was peculiar given that he was one of the country's top players this season. Peppers was not made available to reporters during the week, including at a Wednesday news conference when the school told Orange Bowl officials shortly before that session that he was not coming.
It's the second straight year that Peppers has missed a Michigan bowl game because of injury. He had 72 tackles this season, returned 21 punts and 10 kickoffs, had 27 carries and even caught two passes.
"Somebody asked me the other day how to describe Peppers. He's a football player," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "When you look up the definition in the dictionary, you see football player. The guy can run, he can tackle, he can throw, he can catch, he can block, there's nothing he can't do. Be a special teams threat, be an offensive threat, be a defensive threat, all phases."