I'm a big fan of all-time lists and a big fan of the Michigan Wolverines, so I figured I would collect my suggestions of an all-time greatest Wolverine football team. In attempting to select a team such as this, there will inevitably be a number of deserving players who don't make the cut. Also, keep in mind that I didn't take into account success in the NFL (hence, no Tom Brady), but only rewarded accomplishments while in college, including placement on All-American teams, other post-season honors, recognition as a team captain and overall productivity.
I realize I'm a bit biased towards players that I've watched (1980's - present) but I think this is a fairly good team based on the research I've done. To help demonstrate how I determined this team's roster, I've listed each individual's accomplishments that led them to be selected on the team.
[Note: List was last updated before the 2011 season.]
THE FIRST TEAM
Quarterback – Bennie Friedman (2x All-American in '25 & '26, Big Ten MVP)
Running Backs -
Tom Harmon (Heisman & Big Ten MVP in '40, 2x All-American in '39 & '40),
Willie Heston (2x All-American in 1903 & 1904, 72 TD's)
Wide Receivers –
Anthony Carter (3x All-American in '80-'82, Big Ten MVP, 161 Rec., 3076 Rec. Yds., 40 TD's),
Desmond Howard (Heisman, All-American, & Big Ten MVP in '91, 2146 Rec Yards, 35 TD's)
Tight End – Bennie Oosterbaan (3x All-American in '25-'27)
Center – Charles Bernard (2x All-American in '32 & '33)
Jake Long (2x All-American, Big Ten Off. Lineman of Year in '06 & '07),
Greg Skrepenak (2x All-American in '90 & '91, Big Ten Off. Lineman of Year in '91)
Albert Benbrook (2x All-American in 1909 & 1910),
Steve Hutchinson (2x All-American in '99 & '00, Big Ten Off. Lineman of Year in '00, 4x All-Big Ten 1st Team)
LaMarr Woodley (All-American, Lombardi Winner in '06, 24 Sacks),
Brandon Graham (All-American & Big Ten MVP in '09, 29.5 Sacks)
Mark Messner (All-American in '87 & '88, 36 Sacks),
Chris Hutchinson (All-American & Big Ten Def. Lineman of Year in '92, 24 Sacks)
Ron Simpkins (All-American in '79, 516 Tackles),
Erick Anderson (All-American & Big Ten Def. MVP in '91, 428 Tackles, 60 Sacks)
Jarrett Irons (All-American in '96, 2x Team Captain, 453 Tackles, 66 Sacks)
Charles Woodson (Heisman in '97, 2x All-American & Big Ten Def. MVP in '96 & '97, 18 INT's)
Marlin Jackson (All-American in '02 & '04, 9 INT's, 195 Tackles)
Tripp Welbourne (2x All-American in '89 & '90, 9 INT's, 238 Tackles),
Tom Curtis (All-American in '69, 25 INT's)
Placekicker - Remy Hamilton (All-American in '94, 63 FG's, 280 Pts.)
Punter - Monte Robbins (43.1 Yds/Punt, Longest Punt of 82 Yards)
Returnman - Steve Breaston (24.6 Yds/KR, 12.6 Yds/PR, 5 Return TD's)
Bo Schembechler (194 Wins, 13 Big Ten Titles, 6x Big Ten Coach of Year)
THE SECOND TEAM
Quarterback - Rick Leach (All-American in '78, 3x All-Big Ten in '76-'78, 82 Total TD's)
Running Backs –
Tyrone Wheatley (3x All-Big Ten in '92'-94, Big Ten MVP in '92, 4287 Rushing Yds, 54 Total TD's),
Mike Hart (3x All-Big Ten in '04, '06, '07, 5040 Rushing Yds, 43 Total TD's)
Wide Receivers –
Braylon Edwards (All-American & Big Ten MVP in '04, 252 Rec., 3541 Rec. Yds, 39 TD's),
Amani Toomer (2x All-Big Ten in '94 & '95, 143 Rec., 2657 Rec Yds, 18 TD's)
Tight End – Ron Kramer (All-American in '55 & '56, 880 Yds., 8 TD's)
Center – Germany Schulz (All-American in 1907)
Dan Dierdorf (All-American in '70, 2x All-Big Ten in '69 & '70),
Jumbo Elliott (2x All-American in '86 & '87)
Mark Donahue (2x All-American in '76 & '77),
Reggie McKenzie (All-American in '71)
Curtis Greer (All-American in '79, 2x All-Big Ten in '78 & '79, 313 Tackles) ,
Mike Mallory (2x All-Big Ten in '84 & '85, 321 Tackles)
Mike Hammerstein (All-American in '85, 161 Tackles, 16 Sacks),
Rob Renes (All-American in '99, 151 Tackles, 5 Sacks)
Sam Sword (All-Big Ten in '97, 370 Tackles, 5 Sacks),
Larry Foote (All-American & Big Ten Def. MVP in '01, 212 Tackles, 11 Sacks)
Steve Morrison (All-Big Ten in '94, 315 Tackles)
Leon Hall (All-American in '06, 12 INT's),
Ty Law (All-American in '94, 2x All-Big Ten in '93 & '94, 8 INT's)
Dave Brown (2x All-American in '73 & '74, 212 Tackles, 9 INT's),
Brad Cochran (All-American in '85, 189 Tackles, 12 INT's)
Placekicker - Garrett Rivas (All-Big Ten in '06, 64 FG's, 354 Pts.)
Punter - Zoltan Mesko (2x All-Big Ten in '08 & '09, 42.5 Yds/Punt, Long Punt of 68 Yds)
Returnman - Derrick Alexander (All-American in '92, 23.4 Yds/KR, 12.7 Yds/PR, 4 Ret. TD's)
Fielding Yost (6 National Championships, 10 Big Ten Titles, 165 Wins)
You can check out Motown Sports Revival for a list from several years ago of the 100 greatest Michigan players ever and look at a listing of Michigan's All-Americans here.
Here is another site that lists a number of top Michigan players over the years at each position.
Scott, I don't think that Hart belongs on the list. He has not really done anything. I know he is the leading rusher of all time but consider what a player like Biakabutuka or Wheatley would have done if they had four years to start. I am not sure who I would put there, but, I think that Hart is a little overrated...
I actually thought about putting Wheatley on there so I would agree with you, but Hart has had a way better career than Tim B. If you take away Biakabutuka's senior year, there's not much there.
My thinking with putting Hart on the team was that he has started for four years, he has been incredibly consistent, never fumbles and has more total yards and more 100 & 200 yard games than Tyrone (and will most likely have more TD's by the end of this season). Wheatley had a better yards/carry average (6.1 to Hart's 5.0) and was a more dominating presence on the field. And Hart has the potential at the end of this season to be a two-time All-American and Heisman winner (although that's yet to be proven).
I think an argument could also be made for Jamie Morris, Butch Woolfolk, and Anthony Thomas.
My friend, Todd, commented on this post through e-mail by saying:
Great list! Scott, given that Brian Griese won the National Championship, I would make that change at QB over Leach.
My response: Griese definitely had a great senior season and is unquestionably one of Michigan's greatest leaders at QB, as evidenced by the team's national title in '97. But he didn't rack up the individual honors that Leach did. Leach was the All-Big Ten QB 3 times, was an All-American and finished in the Heisman voting three times. If you took away Griese's senior season, the numbers aren't really there, whereas Leach had 3 great seasons and was a four year starter.
Another comment via e-mail:
Ok ...I mostly like it Scott.. before this season I would have put in Lytle for Hart..but I can go with Hart. I would put in Bubba Paris at tackle and Ron Kramer at TE.. I am ok with Leach...as he was a third baseman also.
Defense looks pretty good. BTW Kuddos to Michigan man Jim Harbaugh for beating USC!
John - Both your suggestions (Paris & Kramer) are valid. I actually had Kramer on as the TE initially and then bumped him for Oosterbaan. Basically because Oosterbaan is a cooler name to say (and his descendant J.P. was a tremendous player for the U of M basketball team averaging a stellar 1.9 pts/game).
Another e-mail comment:
Hey Scott! Great list, man! Here are my comments:
At center, I might go with George Lilja at center. Yeah, he was only an All-American for 1 year, but hey...he was in Crusade with me, so he’s in! (The same reasons won’t apply for Norm Betts at TE! =)) Loved Ricky Leach, and I can see the case for Griese, but for pure passing, I loved John “Wingin’” Wangler. I know, it’s a HUGE stretch...
Okay, bro, seriously...you gonna pick a guy who played in 1910 over Reggie McKenzie at guard? Who’s been playing without a helmet? =)
I know Dierdorf was great, but Skrepenak was a 2-time All-American with a serious mean streak. (Not as mean as Muransky, though, who I saw almost annihilate a 5’ 5” guy at the JoJo’s by the mall. NOT a nice guy...)
And I think you should put Bob Ufer on your team! I missed one game during the 3 years I was a U-M, and it was the Indiana game where AC (“God bless his little Maize-and-Blue heart”) caught a 45 yarder from Wangler to win on the last play. (Trivial moment...Stanley Edwards, father of Braylon, threw the ball into Lee Corso’s hands just prior to this play to get the ball out of bounds and the clock stopped....Corso still hasn’t recovered!) Anyway, I heard the game on the radio with Ufer losing his mind, and it made me forget that I wasn’t in the Big House....Ufer was better!!
Thanks for the walk down memory lane! CZ
I can't really disagree with any of this Chris 'cause you're too funny! Good suggestion on the addition of Ufer. It is now official- Bob Ufer is the all-time best announcer and I'll also officially add Bo Schembechler as the greatest coach!
now I've read your comments, and you didn't add mine? I'm hurt. I learned just about everything I know about UofM football from you, so I guess it's okay.
I know I'm a girl, so I don't hold much weight in this discussion - but Hart should be on this list. I just hope you didn't jinx him by saying he never fumbles...
Go Blue !!!
I didn't post yours since your comment was viewable on Facebook and I thought there would be more discussion on there than there was. I posted these other ones since they came by e-mail. I know, he better not fumble now :)
Here is the big concern about Hart: he never beat OSU. I know that this is a "team sport" it just seems that the best running back of all time at Michigan should have beaten OSU at least once in his career. I think now that there is a second team that's where he belongs, along with every other player from this squad on the list. You don't beat OSU, you don't go first team. Period. :)
The failure to beat O-State is a good point, Dan. Had Hart (and others) not been hurt, it could have been a different result, but the reality is they failed to get it done.
But in making the determinations for this 'all-time team', I didn't evaluate team success as much as individual accomplishments.
Hart was very consistent over his career at U-M, but if I had to make a call to choose any Michigan back at his peak and at full-strength, I would probably choose Wheatley.
QB? I think you have to consider Drew Henson. Sure, he made a major mistake in choosing a career in baseball, but he was the best passer Michigan has seen. I'd also choose Griese above Leach.
At safety, how could you not find a place for Darden?
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