Big Ten

Big Ten preview: Can Michigan's Jabrill Peppers dominate three phases?

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Big Ten preview: Can Michigan's Jabrill Peppers dominate three phases?

Jabrill Peppers, in an interview last week during Michigan’s media day, was asked about playing in multiple phases of the game.

The redshirt freshman cornerback responded: “I actually haven’t heard anything about that.”

OK, Jabrill. Sure you haven’t.

The fact is that the talk since Peppers committed to Brady Hoke and Michigan ahead of the 2014 season has almost entirely centered around how many sides of the ball the No. 3-ranked player in the Class of 2014 could play on. He did it all in high school in New Jersey, playing defensive back and running back and return man and just about everything and doing it all extremely well.

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Will Jim Harbaugh buzz equal wins for Michigan in 2015?]

Even before his freshman season began last year, Hoke teased potentially using Peppers in a few more ways than simply as a standard cornerback. Those plans were derailed when an injury meant Peppers played in only three games, earning a medical redshirt in the process and having to wait until 2015 to truly kick off what’s expected by many to be a promising collegiate career.

“I’m just taking it day by day. I was looking too far ahead last year. I took a lot of things for granted,” Peppers said in that same interview. “Some plays I didn’t run to the ball as I should, that play I got hurt. Now, whenever I’m out there I give it my all, whether it’s practice, whether we’re in the weight room, whether it’s meetings because you never know when it’s going to be taken away from you. So I make sure I do everything I possibly can to make sure I don’t put myself in the position to have it taken away from me again. Meaning that’s protecting myself at all times, full speed, max effort every play. What’s definitely bubbling inside of me is just a hunger to be out there with my brothers.”

Hoke’s gone now, and Jim Harbaugh is in as the new head coach in Ann Arbor. But the regime change hasn’t quieted any of the conversation about Peppers being used on defense, offense and special teams.

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: What to make of Michigan’s running back battle]

Much of that has to do with his high school performance. Take a look at these numbers. In four seasons, he made 134 tackles, intercepted seven passes, and recorded two sacks on defense. Running the ball, he went for 3,059 yards and 43 touchdowns on 373 carries. On top of that, he caught 57 passes for 842 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Oh, and he broke the New Jersey state high school record in the 200-meter dash, running it in 20.79 seconds.

So, yeah, it’s a pretty safe bet that Harbaugh can find something for Peppers to do besides just defending passes.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Peppers said. “Whatever helps the team, whatever is best for the team, that’s what I’ll do to my best ability.”

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.