alternate headline: man does job
The All-Carr Team: Defense
Now that Lloyd Carr is spending his days golfing and his nights at manga conventions, it's time to go over this career. First we play nice, assembling the Carr Era dream team. First up: the offense.
Rules: each season is judged independently. It makes no sense to compare one year of Drew Henson with four years of Chad Henne. Each player can only appear once: no receiving corps of Braylon, Braylon, and Braylon.
Update: Yes, NFL careers and draft positions do have some small bearing. These teams are based solely on college performance, but fans can wildly mis-rate players they've watched. NFL draft status and the performances they put in early in their careers can provide a valuable check.
Lamarr Woodley, 2006. Woodley was consistently excellent from the midpoint of his freshman year on, but it was in 2006 he did this:
co-captain ... Lombardi Award winner ... Ted Hendricks Award winner ... American Football Coaches Association All-America ... Walter Camp Football Foundation All-America ... Football Writers Association of America All-America ... Associated Press All-America first team ... The Sporting News All-America first team ... Rivals.com All-America first team ... Rivals.com National Defensive Player of the Year ... SI.com All-America second team ... CollegeFootballNews.com All-America second team ... Bednarik Award finalist ... Ronnie Lott Trophy quarterfinalist ... Bronko Nagurski Trophy candidate ... Outland Trophy candidate ... Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (coaches and media) ... Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year (coaches) ... consensus All-Big Ten first team selection (coaches and media)
The Ted Hendricks Award is another one of those fake-o awards that just popped up in the past few years and is awarded by the Upper Skokie Elks Club, but the Lombardi has been around a good long while and a Michigan player had never won it until Woodley reeled it in. Woodley was a killer pass rusher that year, tying David Bowens' school record with 12 sacks, and was also a major factor in Michigan's suffocating run defense. The only thing he couldn't do was run the 4.3 40 that would have gotten him to Troy Smith before he could get his passes to wide open WRs off.
MGoBlog is particularly indebted to Woodley, since it was his scoop-and-rumble to cap the f-ing beatdown of Notre Dame in 2006 that inspired "Brady Quinn for Heisman," which I can still watch six times in a row:
For this, and many other things, Woodley is the winnerest.
Glen Steele, 1997. Steele was one of a number of mid-nineties Michigan defenders with quintessential football names, (Jarrett Irons, Sam Sword, and Rob Swett were also charter members) and Steele lived up to his. The other All-American on the Michigan defense during the national championship season, Steele was a terror against both run and pass.
When Ohio State trailed Michigan by six points late in the 1997 edition of the Game, it was Steele who throttled the Buckeyes' final drive with two sacks and another TFL. It was also Steele, along with Swett, who forced Stanley Jackson into the worst interception ever (4:46 in) and gave Michigan the 20-0 margin they'd defend for the rest of the game.
Steele went in the fourth round to the Bengals and spent several years as a backup in the NFL.
James Hall was always terribly underrated. He didn't even make the All Big Ten team his senior year -- though, bizarrely, he was an All American to the Sporting News and a Butkus semifinalist -- and went undrafted. He's still in the NFL.
And, finally, the great disappointment of David Bowens, 1996. It was Bowens' record that Lamarr Woodley tied in 2006. Bowens' accomplishment may have been even more impressive since he did it in just eleven games (he missed the bowl game due to academic suspension, IIRC, and the twelfth game didn't exist then) and was just a sophomore when he did it. But he bombed out of school and ended up at Western Illinois. Rats.
Alan Branch, 2006. Defensive tackles are by nature statistical wastelands and must get by on reputation. Or, if you're Alan Branch, one of the most iconic photos in Michigan football history:
The 6'6" terror from New Mexico was statistically unimpressive during his final season in the winged helmet, racking up a paltry 25 tackles, 6 TFLs, and just two sacks, but the above impact and many others like it didn't register.
This is Alan Branch's impact, registered:
Every UFR that year was a rhapsody to Branch, and when I checked out Michigan's third down performance in 2006 this happened:
You can see 6'6", 330 of angry New Mexican hauling the tail end of that graph down like a black hole in spacetime. That's Alan Branch. 33 percent! On third and one! Six of eighteen! SIX OF EIGHTEEN!
When he entered the draft after his junior year, Michigan fans universally expected he'd be a top five pick and were notably disoriented when he fell to the first pick of the second round. No other Michigan defensive tackle under Carr has come close, statistics be damned.
Jason Horn, 1995. I confess I remember less than zero about Jason Horn. I was 16 when he was a senior and not quite the raving fanatic would become later. (When high school extracurricular events would interfere with games I would just find out what happened later I remember listening to Colorado try a Hail Mary the year after the one that worked in a car.) So when I perused the Bentley Library's records of the 1995 team and saw two All-Americans, one of whom was named "Jason Horn," I said "who?"
ell, in 1995 Jason Horn had 67 tackles, 11 sacks, and 18 TFLs and was named All Big Ten and All American by everyone. No Michigan defensive tackle can match that set of statistics and accolades, not even Branch.
Will Carr, 1996. For God's sake don't give him the ball. But, like, other than that Carr was pretty good, lodging an incredible 160 tackles over his last two years and being named a first-team All American in 1996.
Gabe Watson, 2005. It's either him, Rob Renes, or Josh Williams. Renes was an All American to TSN in 1999 and All Big Ten; he was drafted in the seventh round by the Colts and stuck around the league for a little while. Watson was a planetoid force of nature more interested in cheeseburgers than weights who spent half the game panting and half the game wrecking fools. Do you want the scrappy overachiever or the guy who kinda sorta wasted his potential? Maybe it's too much Fire Joe Morgan, but screw that Eckstein noise: I'm taking Watson.
David Harris, 2006. Harris will forever be the gold standard for Michigan middle linebackers. Agile, fast as hell, brilliant, and a crushing tackler, Harris probably should have won the Butkus his senior year. The insane badassery of Michigan's defense held his tackle numbers down, though, and the award went to some undeserving Penn State guy, like it usually does.
Harris started nine games in the NFL last year, racking up a season's worth of stats: five sacks, 127 tackles, and one traded Jonathan Vilma. Michigan's run defense took a spectacular nose dive.
Michigan listed two "inside" linebackers throughout most of Carr's tenure as Michigan stuck to Jim Herrmann's odd player designations that treated Michigan's players like they were in a 3-4, but in reality the two outside linebackers had more in common with each other than the true middle linebacker. Michigan would often flop players from the strongside to the weakside over the course of their careers, causing a logjam of killer weakside linebackers and a paucity of good senior guys on the strongside. So I'm discarding the distinction, declaring all OLBs OLBs, and picking two of these gentlemen:
|Larry Foote||2001||82||26||6||7||0||ABT, BT DPOY, 1 1st team AA||4th round, average starter|
|Pierre Woods||2003||67||14||7||N/A||2||ABT (2nd)||undrafted, end of roster|
|Victor Hobson||2002||99||17||6||1||0||ABT(1st), 1 4th team AA||2nd round #53, average starter|
|Ian Gold||1999||95||10||4||2||1||ABT(1st)||2nd round, #40, 1 Pro Bowl|
|Shawn Crable||2007||90||28.5||7.5||1||0||ABT(1st), many second-team AA||3rd round #78|
So there are two gentlemen here with eyepopping TFL numbers: Foote and Crable. Crable is out despite his Michigan record of 28.5. The defense this year was terrible against the run. Crable himself spent much of the year at defensive end against the spread, frequently gave up contain when not making his TFLs, took a bunch of personal foul penalties, and was the final goddamned nail in Michigan's coffin during the Horror. No.
Foote, on the other hand, is in, as the only Michigan OLB to come down with Big Ten defensive player of the year honors in Carr's tenure, and the only one to pick up a first team AA nod. For the other spot you're really splitting hairs between Hobson and Gold. My personal preference is for Hobson, who I remember being more of a safety blanket for me. Hobson was also the one really good player on a front seven featuring Zack Kaumfan as one of the other linebackers and a line of Rumishek-Bowman-Heuer-Stevens. Gold got to play with Dhani Jones, Rob Renes, and James Hall.
So there you go: Larry Foote 2001 and Victor Hobson 2002 join Harris.
In 1996, Jarrett Irons finished up this third straight year of more than 100 tackles and was named a first team All American by multiple outlets. Sam Sword ('97 and '98) and Dhani Jones (2000) can't measure up.
The outside linebackers: Gold and Woods from above.
Charles Woodson, 1997. This needs absolutely no justification, but I can give you plenty anyway. In 1997 Woodson had eight interceptions, second-most in Michigan history (Tom Curtis had ten in 1968) despite being avoided as much as humanly possible. Michigan finished #1 in total defense, scoring defense, and pass efficiency defense en route to a perfect 12-0 season and a national title.
And, like, all this stuff:
Update: oops... should probably include the Woodson highlights.
He also won that Heisman thing.
The obvious out of the way, we're left with two candidates for the other starting spot:
- Leon Hall, 2006. Hall was a Thorpe finalist and first-round NFL draftee and the best player in Michigan's secondary during their other great defensive year. Minuses: could to little to stave off Troy Smith's passing in the Ohio State game and got dusted by Dwayne Jarrett late in the Rose Bowl.
- Marlin Jackson, 2002. This was actually Jackson's sophomore year. In his first game he spectacularly battled Washington's Reggie Williams, who would be amongst the top receivers drafted that year, into an unproductive game. He would set a Michigan record for pass breakups in a single season.
Again, we're splitting hairs here. Both players were physical corners with great technique. Both were outstanding tacklers. Both were a little vulnerable deep. My slight preference is for Hall, who was slightly higher-rated by the NFL and made all manner of subtly excellent plays in 2006.
Jackson 2002, obviously, and then how about Jeremy LeSueur in 2003? LeSueur came a long way from his "brain freeze" against Michigan State in the Spartan Bob game. In 2003 he was second-team All Big Ten and Michigan's best corner on their excellent 2003 Rose Bowl team. He essentially shut out Mike Williams back when Mike Williams gave a damn. Unfortunately Markus Curry got burned twice by Keary Colbert, John Navarre was under siege all day, and USC got gifted a fluke touchdown when Braylon Edwards back-heeled a ball right to a Trojan defender, but none of that was LeSueur's fault. He was drafted in the second round by the Broncos.
This has been by far the weakest position over the course of the Carr era. The only All-American listed by the Bentley Library is Ernest Shazor, who was indeed an All-American up until the moment he disemboweled Dorien Bryant and saved the 2004 Purdue game. After that, uh...
And, like, there's more. (That first video was posted by a Spartan, who gloats that Shazor is slow and Spartan Bob must have crowned the field at the Big House... in a video from the 2004 Michigan-Michigan State game! Remind me how that turned out again? Sparty, no!)
Anyway, Shazor earned his rep the first half of the season and... er... blunted it in the second half. By the time the NFL draft rolled around, Shazor had plummeted all the way out of it. He cannot be added to the list.
Marcus Ray, 1997.
Ray's senior year in 1998 was marred by a six-game suspension for contact with an agent, so 1997 was it for Ray. It was a pretty good it, though: one #1 ranked pass efficiency defense, one SI cover, one national championship.
Jamar Adams, 2007. Don't get me wrong, Jamar Adams was a fine safety. I can tell because I didn't hate him despite his existence during the era when I carefully comb over every play the defense makes in case there's something to hate therein. Any college team would be totally satisfied to have him as one of their starters.
But Adams is the only player on the first team to never make first-team All Big Ten (he was second-team) and is one of very few to go undrafted. As one of Michigan's best safeties over a 13-year period, uh... that's depressing.
There is no second team. Seriously: Julius Curry? Tommy Hendricks? Ryan Mundy at West Virginia? There is no second team.