Let’s get Jabrill Peppers out of the way.
He is, without a doubt, the recruit Michigan can’t afford to lose prior to National Signing Day 2014.
The Wolverines would probably be more comfortable having the 247Sports 5-star athlete in Ann Arbor at this very moment—along with the other seven early enrollees—but considering that Peppers once contemplated visiting other schools, having his verbal pledge will suffice.
At 6’1” and 205 pounds, the multifaceted Paramus Catholic (N.J.) defensive back/receiver/running back/kicker/punter—OK, the last two were a joke—should immediately contribute to the defense, headed by Greg Mattison, and the offense, which is now under the control of former Alabama OC Doug Nussmeier.
Projecting Peppers as a coordinator and head coach’s dream in 2014 isn’t too far of a stretch. During the Under Armour All-America Game, coach Herm Edwards gushed about Peppers’ potential, saying the following to Sam Webb of GoBlueWolverine.com (via the Detroit Free Press):
[Peppers is a] special young man. Mentally tough guy, has great transition speed, can get out of cuts and breaks, competitive, team guy, too. Has a lot of humility. He has fun practicing and is a little bit of a talker, which I like. I get it; I played the position. He’s going to have an excellent college career.
Peppers wants to be better than Charles Woodson, whose wondrous two-way play and incredible returns led to the 1997 Heisman Trophy and a share of the national title.
During Under Armour All-America practice sessions, Peppers trained with Neon Deion Sanders (or Leon Sandcastle, if you prefer), one of the greatest all-around athletes to hit a field of competition.
As the following video from Under Armour shows, the former Atlanta Falcons/Braves superstar liked what he saw in Peppers.
Peppers is important. He's vital. He's necessary.
However, he's not the only one critical to the success of Team 135.
Rule Your Backyard, Get Lawrence Marshall
Wins and losses aside, when it comes to recruiting, Brady Hoke has proven to be fantastic. He obviously needs to work on winning on the field, but he's quickly becoming a champion on the trail.
After successfully snagging Grand Rapids Christian's Drake Harris from the grips of Michigan State, Hoke claimed another in-state victory by gaining a verbal from Southfield's Lawrence Marshall, a 6'3", 240-pound defensive end who carries a 4-star rating from 247Sports.
Not yet signed, Marshall represents more than a spot on the roster, he's symbolic of what's going on in the Great Lakes State. For once, the Spartans and Wolverines clamor for the state's elite. In the past, Michigan usually had its pick of the litter, leaving scraps for the team in East Lansing.
But over the past five years or so, that's changed. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio has secured the best in the Mitten on several occasions. If Michigan wants to remain king of its own block, Hoke can't let local talent escape.
Throw in the need for defensive ends, and Marshall serves as a solution to a couple of issues. Not only will he work with Mattison, one of the game's top defensive minds, but he'll also be part of a much-needed resurgence.
As of early January, 247Sports predicts Michigan State to win Marshall, who is the No. 9 WDE and No. 172 overall recruit of 2014.
The road to glory starts in Hoke's own neighborhood—the corner of Defense and Wins Championships Streets.
Depth at TE Requires Bunting
At 6'6" and 210 pounds, Ian Bunting is similar in stature to the old Jake Butt, who threw bulk on his lanky frame prior to the conclusion of his respectable freshman season as the Wolverines' No. 2 tight end.
A move to receiver could be in the cards for Devin Funchess, leaving Butt as the top choice for the position. If Bunting performs in the same way as Butt did this past fall, Nussmeier may opt for him over A.J. Williams, giving Team 135 a pair of tall, sure-handed bookends.
According to 247Sports' crystal ball, Bunting will choose Michigan. Considering that Bunting has seemed 100 percent committed since the get-go, worrying about him doing otherwise would be a waste of time. But things aren't official until he signs the LOI.
Based on pure upside, Bunting seems like a sure thing. Imagine him with Funchess, Butt and Harris, or Jehu Chesson...or Amara Darboh.
Stacked at receiver, stacked at tight end. That's not a bad problem to have. Bunting's arrival to Team 135 is essential.
Swimming in talent once again, Hoke has the opportunity to really define his tenure with this year's recruits, who, in a perfect maize and blue world, should fit well with existing top-10 classes at Michigan.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81