a terrible blight on our fine country
Good lord, this was brutal. Hockey had a pretty clear cutoff that sat nicely at five, and getting to five in basketball was a stretch. I left Steve Breaston, Leon Hall, Allan Branch, and Zoltan Mesko out here. Jebus.
PROS: Tough-talking no-neck was a four year starter at center perfectly suited for Michigan's zone running game; won the Rimington as a senior. Hilarious interview with absolutely no regard for cliché. High fantangibles rating. At times seemed to be the difference between doom and success in the Michigan ground game. Broke something serious in his foot in the Sugar Bowl, watched Rocko Khoury make some panic snaps on Michigan's first series, and played the rest of the game seriously damaged.
Experienced both coaching changes and was one of the seniors Who Stayed™. A huge factor in the locker room uniting behind Hoke.
CONS: Had some injury problems. Inexplicably had his snap count jumped against MSU and only MSU for like three straight years.
PROS: Four-year contributor and three-year starter who always teetered on the edge of being great. Finally accelerated down the senior-year stretch into a dominant nose tackle. During this period forced a pitch on a Nebraska speed option.
This is about all you need to know. You could not block him. Michigan's insanely good third/fourth and short defense started with him (and ended with Kovacs).
But wait, there's more: with Michigan's already-thin defensive line depth shattered by injury before the Sugar Bowl, Martin and Van Bergen faced off with future first-round pick David Wilson in a game where getting a stop meant you got four snaps before you were back on the field. They singlehandedly kept Michigan in the game despite dying halfway through the second quarter. A performance that should pass into legend the same way Hunwick's North Dakota game will.
Also a member of Those Who Stayed™. Along with Molk and Van Bergen, Martin got the Full Andy Dufresne from his time at Michigan.
CONS: Seemingly endorses "In The Big House." Not as highly regarded by the NFL as a few other guys on this list.
Ryan Van Bergen
PROS: Third and final member of Those Who Stayed™ on the list. Also a four-year contributor and longtime starter, underrated because of his lack of playmaking but still the TFL leader on last year's team. The other guy holding Michigan's defensive line together through sheer force of will in the Sugar Bowl. Virtually impossible to knock down. Screwed up a check in the 2009 Indiana game, leading to an 85-yard touchdown, then singlehandedly annihilated the next IU drive, giving Michigan a chance to pull it out.
CONS: Probably the least-great player on this list. Here as a tribute to Michigan's phoenix act in 2011. Not enticing to NFL. Still… look at that. This is not a list of the best players ever, so…
PROS: The best player on an awful Michigan defense and awful Michigan teams. Did not get the Full Andy Dufresne since his career ended halfway through the sewage tube. Still bore all of this with a Denard-like beatific smile. Just killed people, all the time.
NFL did really like him, drafting him in the top half of the first round.
CONS: Unfortunately his impact was limited because the team around him was terrible.
PROS: Sideline-to-sideline missile was cerebral to the point of near-genius. Always there. Always. Made a habit out of juking(!) offensive linemen in zone schemes, making them think the play was going one way, then exploding into the ballcarrier when this was not the case. Junior year was tremendously underrated thanks to chaos around him; was major lynchpin and possibly the best player on Michigan's monster 2006 defense. Yes, I mean that seriously.
Early and still prime example of the usefulness of UFRing makes him near to my heart; not sure if you care. Validated all praise from Michigan fans by instantly becoming NFL tackling machine upon entry to the league.
Kind of looks like Worf.
CONS: Lacks iconic wow play. Others started longer than he did.
PROS: Emphatically does not have David Harris's problem since he was the target on two of the most iconic plays of the aughts: Oh, Wide Open and Lloyd Carr's Last Second. An electric playmaker the rest of the time, a guy who wasn't the biggest but was the fastest and hardest to keep track of. Had that brilliant slow-up-to-stall-the-DB-then-extend-for-the-TD move down pat. More of a technician than given credit for. Whenever I think of Manningham, I think of that Citrus Bowl when DeBord said "screw it, spread time" and Holly Rowe reporting that Florida deathbacker Brandon Spikes was chasing Manningham all over the field on his incessant end-arounds, saying "damn, boy, you good."
Did the worm after the 2007 Penn State win.
CONS: Got suspended for the weed, something that took some doing in the mid-aughts. Widely regarded as kind of maybe not the nicest guy to ever make it through the program.
PROS: Amongst the nicest guys to ever make it through the program. Skillet-sized hands are made of industrial-strength adhesive. An elite-level possession receiver who was everyone's safety blanket. Targeted all the time and made all the catches. Probably the most common ex-player to be referenced in "You May Remember Me From Such Players As," to the point where I actively try to avoid it now.
That about sums it up.
CONS: Did drop that one pass once, you know, that one. Never a huge deep threat.
PROS: Four year starter with great backstory and running style burned into your brain. No speed at all but capable of juking in a phone booth and grinding out two, three, four yards after contact. Got a standing ovation for a particular eight yard run against Penn State once. Came out of a tiny school in upstate New York with outlandish rushing stats and a youtube clip in which he jukes every player on the opposing team twice.
Never, ever fumbled except twice inside the five against Florida in his last game. Pretty much the only thing standing between Michigan and a yards per carry under three during his time at Michigan.
CONS: Injury prone. Started this incredibly annoying "little brother" business. Spice added by mouth often backfired; went 0-fer against OSU.
PROS: Kills people. Brandon Graham was Woodley 2.0, a devastating defensive end who could not be blocked one-on-one. Has enormous Wolverine tattoo on arm. Finished off the Oh Wide Open game with the Yakety-sax-capping scoop and score. Fighting with David Harris and Allan Branch for title of best player on 2006 defense.
CONS: OSU 0-fer does not quite apply but really kind of does since he did not contribute much in 2003. That's about it. Kind of think maybe Graham was better since he had way less help and still produced.
PROS: Is he a man or a block-long wall? Only his mother knows, and these days she's not even sure. Four-year starter who rolled off the NFL left tackle prototype line and let exactly zero guys not roid-raging get to the quarterback when he was on the field. The first overall pick his draft year, all-American everywhere, etc, etc, etc, you get the idea.
CONS: Fantangibles low. Another Michigan great who had to suffer through the indignity of 0-fer OSU. Hurt most of the 2005 season. Not sure what I'd write about him.
PROS: If he was a Football Manager player, would have an influence and work rate of 20. This means he's a gritty grittenstein who everyone loves because he defies his physical limitations to be pretty good. Had an Aneurysm of Leadership to lead Michigan to its first victory in Breslin since 1997.
Also nailed six threes in that game. Iconically bled all over himself in a game against Illinois during Michigan's first tourney push since the program's NCAA immolation. Kind of a walking capital-L Leadership avatar. The kind of player opposing fans loathe. Our Brian Cardinal. Swears like a sailor and has problems keeping his emotions in check.
CONS: Was never a star. Senior year usage was 14.3%, in the "role player" arena. Repeatedly posterized by men a half-foot taller than him, though this could be filed under a positive from a grit perspective. Clocked an OSU player late in a loss to get booted.
PROS: Amazing sophomore year saw him finish top five in assist rate nationally and shoot efficiently despite an astronomic usage rate. Told Kalin Lucas to get off his #$&*ing court, and Lucas had to since Michigan had just swept Michigan State for the first time since paper was invented. Was the engine of Michigan's second tourney birth since the NCAA immolation, this one not a skin-of-your-teeth bubble nailbiter. Nearly led Michigan to an upset of Duke in the secound round. If only that floater had dropped…
CONS: Made a poor decision to enter the draft early, limiting his impact to that one year—his freshman year was not exactly Trey Burke's. Draft entry decision seemingly taken in full knowledge that he was unlikely to go in first round. That's tough to take, and it seems like a one-year phenom has to be more phenomenal to get in here.
Also while it's not his fault that Tim Doyle called him "butterfly," it is a regrettably true thing.
PROS: Best player on Michigan's tourney-drought-breaking team, with massive usage (32%, top 25 nationally), a nearly-as-massive assist rate, and okay shooting. Major factor in the win at Minnesota that essentially got Michigan into the tourney.
A guy who signed up with Michigan when he had other options and there wasn't much reason to be a Wolverine. Stuck with it despite the Amaker firing. Way less crazy than Alex Legion. Actual full name is "Corperryale L'Adorable Harris," which… wow. Key guy in Michigan's perception-altering wins over UCLA and Duke in 2009.
CONS: Also made a debatable-at-best decision to enter the draft early and has spent his NBA career on the fringes of the Cavs' roster. Had blowups with Beilein that caused him to sit during critical periods. Tended toward lazy habits like jacking up contested threes. Had a little Rasheed Wallace disease while at M wherein he seems like less than he should be. Michigan disappointed greatly in his final year despite losing only a couple of walk-ons and Kelvin Grady.
PROS: Yeah, he's eligible. If this is a surprise it just goes to show how long ago 2006 seems in basketball terms.
Horton's teams never made the tournament but in his last go-round he was the main man on an outfit Kenpom likes better (#31) than a couple of Beilein outfits that got in. And he was fantastic: 28% usage the #35 assist rate, a bunch of steals, 90% free throw shooting, 49% from two, and 39% from three. That team would have made the tourney if they a) hadn't gone from 16-3 to 18-10 to end the year and b) hadn't blown it against Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament.
I think we all forget how good Horton was because his teams never got anywhere.
CONS: Teams never got anywhere. He's holding the NIT MVP trophy above, a career-summing photo if there ever was one. While this isn't his fault it is a downer. Got suspended for most of his junior year thanks to a domestic violence thing he pled guilty to.
This was difficult to separate out since there are a number of candidates with things to recommend them: Brent Petway, Graham Brown, and Stuart Douglass were tough to leave out, but they all seemed like junior versions of Novak in the grit category.
PROS: The other top banana on Michigan's drought-breaker. A skilled power forward forced to play out of position at center too much, Sims was a wildly inconsistent player capable of dropping 20 on 8 shots one night and 2 on 8 the next night. These swings correlated very well with the height of his opponent. Are you a below-the-rim 6'8" kid at Northwestern? Forget it. Are you a shotblocker? Enjoy your feast.
Sims came back from an unimaginable personal tragedy—his brother was shot to death—endured during his freshman year to be a mainstay for his final three years. He was high-usage, a quality rebounder, and rarely turned the ball over. These things made up for some eh shooting percentages to make him an efficient player. Another guy who had options but decided to go with Michigan at a time where there was little reason to.
CONS: Has the same knock Manny Harris did since his final year was the disappointing follow-up to the tourney appearance. Was never a really great player and doesn't bring Novak-level fan intangibles (FANTANGIBLES!) with him.
Carl Hagelin, 2007-2011
PROS: Molded from Swedish clay to be Red Berenson's platonic ideal of the student-athlete. Such an awesomely good defensive hockey player that it was immediately apparent even to novices. There was no such thing as an odd-man break with Hagelin on the ice. Fast as hell, offensively productive, and so good he leapt straight from Michigan's roster to the Rangers. If the Rangers had figured out how good he was in camp, would have been a strong Calder candidate. Four-year player with serious NHL ability, a rarity. Just really, really awesome at hockey.
Indirectly responsible for Yost's burgeoning flag tradition. Scored with a second left in overtime to win the game on senior night. I cried out "CARL?!!?!" during the devastating Miami Fort Wayne game that really needs a nickname.
CONS: Did not singlehandedly drive Michigan to national title, but you could say that about everyone on this list. Hagelin's senior year saw them get closer than any team since '98, so this is less of a con than it is for anyone else.
Shawn Hunwick, 2007-2012
PROS: Came to Michigan a 5'7" walk-on and third goalie expected to see three minutes over the course of his career. Left in the conversation for best ever; save percentages are no contest. Made me excited about the NHL again when he signed with Columbus and got in a game. Smart, funny guy on twitter. Fertile nickname ground: Tiny Jesus, Little Pimpin', etc. Lack of size gave him a distinctive style since if he stayed in or near the crease he was dead.
CONS: Did not make all CCHA first team. Occasionally lost his ish and started punching anyone who eyed his crease owlishly. Depending on personal preferences in re: 5'7" goalies giving hellacious uppercuts to skaters, this could also be filed under "pro." Failed to score on 20 minutes of power play time against Cornell. Deserved better.
Jack Johnson, 2005-2007
PROS: Johnson the younger was Loose Cannon Cop on hockey skates, a guy who doesn't have to follow your rules, man, because he doesn't need the man to catch bad guys and batter them senseless with ninja kicks while acquiring the sweet lovin' from attractive ladies.
A ludicrously talented defenseman, he loved to doodle around guys he was so much better than. He also loved to annihilate anyone with their head down.
He almost killed BC's goalie with a slap shot. He was really unbelievably good in year two. He wears his passion for Michigan on his sleeve. He probably shouldn't have even shown up after going third in the draft, but did anyway, and then stayed a second year.
…and directly responsible for creating JMFJ shirts for the entire family—including what appeared to a ten-year-old—when they found out about this. IIRC the ten-year-old was informed that it stood for something it did not stand for. "Massive fun," maybe.
CONS: Left after two years, and his first year was… uneven. Massive penalty minutes are obvious. Loose Cannon Cop rep got him suspended, sometimes warranted, sometimes not. At one point during his freshman year I yelled "you're supposed to be the third pick in the draft" at him. Was great fun, but how much impact did he have relative to the other guys on the list?
Kevin Porter, 2004-2008
PROS: Four-year player, Hobey Baker winner as a senior after I said his production would tail off without Hensick driving scoring chances next to him. Solid citizen who led some of the best Michigan teams of the period. His final year featured the Nickelback and Creed goals against Notre Dame in the Denver Frozen Four in a game that Michigan otherwise would have won. If Hagelin gets fewer minus points than anyone else for not finding a title at the end of the rainbow, Porter is second.
CONS: This might sound insane: he lacked personality as a hockey player. He was of course very, very good at hockey, but compared to the other guys on the list his career lacks color. Is this insane? Does anyone else feel this? I mean, I don't know what to say about him other than "Hobey Baker winner." The lone highlight on the tubes is a nice snap shot:
But it's not a good candidate for Most Remarkable Thing on the Tubes. When he won the Hobey it sort of felt like the committee had backed themselves in a corner after snootily denying Hensick despite his point totals the year before. That was justified as an example of the Hobey's character requirement—as if mouthing off to a ref is uncommon. As a result, the uber-talented Nathan Gerbe got passed over thanks to a couple of spearing-type incidents over the course of his career.
Porter is the opposite of Johnson. Johnson was Paul Bunyan on skates. Porter was just really good at hockey.
TJ Hensick, 2003-2007
PROS: The most recent magic midget and a guy I miss every time Michigan blows a 2 on 1… or 2 on 0. Had an amazing knack for making the unstoppable pass in that situation, and plenty others. Capable of stickhandling in a phone booth full of lime jello. This is almost painful to watch…
…because Michigan hasn't had it since he left.
Should have won the Hobey Baker easily as senior since he led the nation in scoring by a wide margin. Often accused of being a glory hound but massive assist numbers suggest otherwise. Was a one-man power play setup, a skill you should appreciate more now. Was immediately awesome; accumulated more career points than anyone else in the timeframe by a wide margin.
CONS: Maybe kind of a glory hound. Once tapped in a Porter shot on an empty net that was already going in. Mouthed off in one of those dismal NCAA tourney losses to North Dakota and got a ten-minute misconduct at the worst possible time. Did not win Hobey Baker, probably because of this. It probably wasn't his fault but the teams he was most prominent on were amongst the worst Michigan's had since the Berenson era took off.
Debate in the comments; voting will be unveiled once all candidates are.
Obligatory Bo shot.
So. That hall of fame that we talked about. I went back and checked everyone's suggestions and have come up with this tentative structure:
Sports. This blog focuses primarily on football, basketball, and hockey, and since the end product here is going to be a career-encompassing column on the site the author of that column has to have experienced the career in question to write on it. Since that's me that unfortunately disqualifies the sports I don't get punched in the heart by.
In the event I or someone else who writes for the site does experience a sporting career outside the Big Three worthy of entry, we will play it by ear.
Eligibility. Anyone whose career finished up in 2005 or later in those three sports. There is no waiting period, but it will be tougher to get in in year one. How tough I can't exactly say. Looking over the list of candidates so far it seems like 2-4 a year across all three sports is about right.
There may be an old-timer's committee at some point to retroactively enroll folks like Charles Woodson. We'll see. Paging Craig Ross.
Entry process. Popular vote on the site. Registered users only to prevent bot spamming, but no point restrictions. Since I'm not entirely sure what the voting patterns are going to be like it's hard to set a definite threshold, but it will be a large supermajority—say 75%. People generally liked the idea of starting off higher and coming down as the player's career gets more distant.
Limits. No one has to get in any year, except this year when I'll declare the top vote-getter in each of the three sports to be an auto-entry.
Entry criteria. At this point in my internet career I know better than to tell the internet what to do, because the internet does not listen. But the end result here should provide some guidance. I can write a really swell career encomium for Zack Novak or Shawn Hunwick or Brandon Graham, but probably not Troy Woolfolk, star-crossed though he is, or Brandon Minor.
Overall greatness is part of the equation, but only part. There's also a heavy component of how misty it gets when player X is announced on senior day, assuming he makes it that far. Time served is necessarily a consideration—Max Pacioretty was pretty great during his one year but his quick exit makes it hard me to think of anything to say about him other than "was pretty great that one year." On the other hand, if Mike Comrie was eligible, hell yes. Woodson ditto. It's about a personal impact on you.
I don't know, man. Just close your eyes and use the Force.
Inaugural class. As previously stated, at least three. To keep the gate high and the candidate pool viable, the inaugural class will be a max of six.
End results. We'll have a page on the site that will serve as a home base; each entry will get a column that will be archived there. Under no circumstances is this to be told to anyone who gets in, and if you do for the love of God please don't tell me about it.
Candidates. To make things simple I am the candidate selection committee, albeit with much input from the crowd. I'll pick ten football, five basketball, and five hockey players from the time period to put up for nomination, put their pros and cons in a few posts, and then let registered folks have at the voting. I'm assuming there will be a bright line between yes and no, but I'll make more definitive calls when I have some data to go on. For now, here's an excellent list of candidates put together by Tom From AA. I'll have hockey up later today.
Photoshoppin'. I have no skills in this department, and this is the kind of thing that seems like it needs both a logo and maybe some special career-summing image leading these posts. Interested? Let me know.
Let's get to it. If there are strenuous objections to any of this, nothing's set in stone. Let me know.
This message board post gave me an idea: this blog should create an e-HOF for Michigan athlete in the sports it covers. Retiring numbers is something that people do 30 years down the road, and probably never in football; legends patches will be issued to like six people. There should be an intermediate ground. Now is the time to create plaques.
First we must set ground rules.
Q: should there be a waiting period?
I remember thinking Michigan should retire Lavell Blanchard's number because he represented the start of a new era in Michigan's basketball program. That didn't so much happen. There's a reason HOFs usually impose a five-year waiting period.
On the other hand, it might be a good idea to be able to recognize players right away, and unlike actual HOFs if we mess up we can implement the Bill Simmons solution by creating a pyramid with the all-timers at the top and the guys were may have gotten over-excited about at the bottom.
Q: what should the criteria be for admission?
For one I think only players who played after 2005, when the blog started, should be eligible—at least at first. There may be a time when we start reaching further back but fundamentally this is about experiencing the careers of the guys who get in, something we can't do with Tom Harmon.
As far as who is a quality candidate, this is some combination of being really good and an ineffable other quality that encompasses having dreads or bleeding all over everything or developing a pathological hatred of the media or absolutely stoning North Dakota or talking up brunette girls in the aftermath of your game-winning kick. Like… this should be a thing Zack Novak gets in, no questions asked. It should be equally about the impact player X has on the pleasure of being a Michigan fan than about being really good. Really good helps, of course.
When Deadspin bothered with their HOF they required a 75% approval rate to get in. Here voting would only be open to >100 point users, I'd imagine. Is that the right number? Should it be a sliding scale such that anyone who just graduated needs 95% and it drops five percent each year until it gets to 75%?
Q: should there be an annual cap on admitees?
I was thinking three, but surveying this hypothetical field of candidates makes that seem slender: RVB, Martin, Novak, Hunwick, Molk. And then there's a backlog of players who have impacted in the era this blog was talking about sports. Maybe there should be a larger inaugural class.
Q: what about sports that don't get coverage around here?
Football, basketball, and hockey are going to get adequate face time. Other sports, not so much. This is largely because they don't get enough attention to have the aforementioned impact. I'd like to recognize everyone else but the reason I don't write about everything is I can't do so competently. Does this thing have a place for the Kellen Russells/Samantha Findleys of the world? Maybe we should set aside a non-revenue spot every other year or something.
The comments are your debating ground.