Michigan All-Blank Teams: The Blue Chips

Michigan All-Blank Teams: The Blue Chips Comment Count

Seth June 1st, 2018 at 3:03 PM
But which position he? [Patrick Barron]

Here’s some very important #content for #content week as our focus remains on pushing out two very important projects. MGoBlog photographer Eric Upchurch last night tweeted one of those “make your all-time” lists that generate the same answers (our board is up to that now). I thought I’d up the difficulty/interest by theming them, sort of like how Ace made his all-Beilein teams last year. First: the 5-stars.

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Rule: Has to be over 4.5 stars on my database and a five-star to someone.

Cut-off: Had to commit (or transfer) to Michigan after 1989. If you want all-Bo teams talk to Dr. Sap, and anything earlier go to MVictors, because I’m not old enough to have strong opinions on anyone before the mid-1990s. Also my recruiting database only goes back to 1990 (yes, millennials, crootin existed before the Rivals database).

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Quarterback: Chad Henne

No this entire post won’t be me posting gifs and slapping some words on it; I just wanted to try it once.

Four-year starter, his healthy junior season was the best by a Michigan quarterback under Lloyd Carr despite being up against a parade of NFL draft picks. Drew Henson at his best was the best, but as the owner of a Henson jersey I can vouch it was Henne who really rescued the value of that purchase.

Speaking of that parade, partly because the position gets ranked higher, Michigan has brought in a LOT of five-star quarterbacks. Brandon Peters didn’t get anyone’s 5th star but was a 4.60 for reference.

Other candidates: Shea Patterson, Shane Morris, Devin Gardner, Ryan Mallett, Clayton Richard, Matt Gutierrez, Drew Henson, Jason Kapsner

Running Back: Tyrone Wheatley, Anthony Thomas

The first time I learned that Michigan had to convince high-schoolers to play for them—rather than, I dunno, springing from midfield or something—was a Free Press article about Wheatley being the most perfect human-football specimen ever produced in the state. Wheatley is the but… response to “are our 5-star running backs cursed?” You youngsters probably don’t know what it feels like to have this massive pair of shoulder pads gliding away from smurfs (and Nits). To this day his signature shoulder-dip is my go-to move when trying to dodge a person in an enclosed space.

If you do have a frame of reference, it’s probably because A-Train was a near carbon copy of #6. Thomas didn’t have much of a pro career but he was a great college player, fast enough to return kicks and one of the best pass blocking RBs of the modern era. And he always. Fell. Forward.

Other candidates: Kareem Walker, Ty Isaac, Derrick Green, Kevin Grady, Kelly Baraka, Justin Fargas, (okay okay we’re cursed!), Ricky Powers.

[After the JUMP: This all could have been (was) a Tweet. Happy June]

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This Week's Obsession: The Other 97s

This Week's Obsession: The Other 97s Comment Count

Seth January 14th, 2015 at 12:15 PM

1997defense

the base play

The Question:

Ace: After the title game, it's time to wash the bad taste out of our mouths. Thinking back on the 1997 title team, who was your favorite player to watch other than Charles Woodson? Answer should be your choice at the time, so unless you've always been obsessed with line play I'm going to be a little skeptical if one of you answers Steve Hutchinson.

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The Answers:

Alex Cook: I was four-and-a-half years old at the time and have no recollection of this team whatsoever. I'm going to graduate this spring / summer, so, uh, yeah 1997 was a while ago.

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Seth: Dude don't forget people knew Hutchinson and Backus then. Freshman linemen were almost unheard of in recent memory, so Lloyd announcing two would start was a big part of why September expectations were for "another four-loss season."

hutchbackus
It's not like two freshman offensive linemen went totally unremarked, Ace.

(The contempt with which I used to say those four words embarrasses me now).

Through that season there were Daily stories and Replay mentions about Hutchinson and Backus: going to Blimpy's for the first time, having to buy Spots for the seniors, boilerplate "pick things quickly" stuff from coaches, yada yada. However I personally read those articles a few years later in the archives, and also developed my appreciation for Rob Renes only after hitting campus in 1998 and being exposed to frat brothers and editors who worshipped him.

As my high school notebooks will attest, I was a fan of Dhani Jones. He was so fast tracking down guys wherever on the field, and always appeared around the ball, and was only a sophomore. He really stuck out in the Penn State game, and I remembered him having a ton of sacks (a Bentley lookup reveals six). And his name was Dhani, and he had a fro, and they said he was a straight-A student, and back then I believed in the student-athlete hooey a lot more. If he had played in the time of YouTube he'd be an MGo-Favorite easily.

Dhani was only marginally ahead of a bunch of that front seven. The way Keith Jackson would say "Clint Copenhaver" you thought Copenhaver was some sort of defensive god. James Hall would chase quarterbacks into their nightmares. Sam Sword and Glenn Steele because it's not enough that we destroy your offense we have to literally send guys named for medieval weaponry at you. Either of those guys would be my pick after Jones (I loved sacks).

And I liked A-Train, a big-time recruit when that was just becoming a thing, and so damn fast. When I bought my jersey freshman year it was between 7 and 32; I went with the former because Henson was my grade.

[After the jump: we loved everybody]

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Michigan Museday Has Carries for All

Michigan Museday Has Carries for All Comment Count

Seth March 20th, 2012 at 1:45 PM

A-Trainperry greatHart - Purdue

A-Train, Perry, Hart. Photos archived from MGoBlue.com

Here is what has Michigan football fans all aflutter this week: With two 4-star running backs committed to our class, do we still have room for a 5-star running back? #firstworldproblems. Since this is our concern, I thought we'd take a look at the prospective depth charts that past Michigan RBs committed to and see if the prospective mountain for 2013 prospects is any harder than the typical Michigan starting tailback's, prospectively speaking.

When the next class arrives in 2013 Toussaint and Hopkins—a permanent fullback I mention because he's the B.J. Askew type of fullback who will eat up carries—will be seniors, and Vincent Smith will be gone. Barring attrition, the next generation, i.e. the guys an additional 2013 commit should expect to be competing with, will then look something like this:

  • Thomas Rawls, Junior
  • Justice Hayes, RS Sophomore
  • Drake Johnson, RS Freshman
  • Dennis Norfleet, RS Freshman or Soph.
  • Wyatt Shallman, Freshman
  • Deveon Smith, Freshman

Three RBs in the 2013 class gives us potentially five freshmen competing for carries with a sophomore and a junior. "Barring attrition" would almost be a fool's gamble given the history of the position in all my years of following Michigan, except Hoke's program has so far (very small sample) been actually kind of remarkable in holding onto guys—policy is to give them all the benefit of the doubt.Chris Howard

Anyway we have the dudes; if Iowa RBHG gets bored one day he will find too many sacrifices for even his mighty, smite-y hand. This means Michigan is doubtful to take any more add-on running backs to pack the roster unless they or someone on the list is switching to defense. However there is absolutely room—even a need perhaps—for a high-profile back in this class.

The recruiting profiles of a lot of these guys suggests any could be beatable by a hypothetical freshman 5-star. Norfleet and Johnson were both very under-the-radar guys. The former and Justice Hayes are more like scat-backs who could as easily end up as slot-kick returners (though from yesterday's Spring video it looked like Hayes has bulked up a bit since last year, or else someone else is wearing 5. Insiders?). Asking if Shallman is really a running back is entering the realm of media cottage industry. Rawls is so Kevin Grady. At this point Smith is a 4-star to Scout, an Anton Campbell Memorial "no idea, but I guess he committed to Michigan" 3-star to Rivals  and a guy named Smith to the other sites. Throw a dart at that group in two years and you could hit anything from (respectively) Mark Ingram/Steve Breaston/Barry Sanders/Mike Hart/Ron Dayne/Eddie George Except Faster to six Brackenses.

Of all positions tailback seems the most freshman-friendly, so it's not as necessary to stockpile today for 2017. On the other hand if you look at Michigan history the lesson is MOAR TAILBACKS. In fact Michigan's great running backs of the last two decades have mostly committed to apparent depth charts way more jammed with highly rated players and established starters:

2012-03-20 Musday Running Backs

(Click embiggens)

The thing that's readily apparent is the youth. Michigan averaged about two recruits per year at RB, and graduated one a year. Some didn't move far—Chris Floyd, B.J. Askew, and more recently Stephen Hopkins switched to a type of ball-carrying fullback. A good many switched to defense. A good many Tim-Biakabutukaquit the team too. But look at the depth charts so many highly rated backs committed to:

  • Tshimanga Biakabutuka would have to beat out Tyrone Wheatley, Rickey Powers, and Ed Davis, not to mention a higher rated recruit in his own class. He earned 149 carries in two years versus that group then became his own legend as a junior.
  • Chris Howard signed on with two all-everything backs with a sophomore Biakabutuka already established, and ended up the nominal starting RB for a national champion.
  • Clarence Williams, the Cass Tech mite, didn't seem afraid of larger classmate J.R. Ford or the aforementioned guys; he beat out Howard and Floyd as a freshman, became the feature back as a sophomore, and spent his whole career battling Howard, Floyd, and A-Train for carries.
  • Anthony Thomas was the second-least heralded of four heralded backs who might have believed they were coming in to wait two years for Howard and C-Will to clear out. The train arrived at the starting station his freshman year and eventually broke most of Michigan's rushing records.
  • Justin Fargas signed up beside Walter Cross, while freshman A-Train was tearing it up, and before A-Train's classmates skedaddled.
  • B.J. Askew came in with three other freshman backs, including 5-star Ryan Beard, when Thomas had two more years, and two more 5-stars, including the electrifying Fargas, had three.
  • Chris Perry had about the clearest route to the starter's gig of anybody, but that still meant behind two 5-stars with sophomore eligibility (Beard, Fargas), and one junior (Cross).Grady - PSU
  • Mike Hart might have looked like depth no matter which class he signed onto. To win the starting job as a true freshman he beat out senior David Underwood, junior Pierre Rembert, sophomore Jerome Jackson, and higher rated freshman Max Martin.
  • Kevin Grady saw the freshman duo leap to the top of the depth chart in 2004 yet opted to join the Wolverines in 2005.
  • Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown arrived when Grady was to be a sophomore and Hart had two more years as starter locked down.
  • Shaw's snake-oiling away from Penn State was to join McGuffie and Cox as the generation that should wait two years for Minor/Brown to clear out. McGuffie hurdled everyone to start much of '08.
  • Fitz Toussaint and Vincent Smith signed on before McGuffie left, and piled into a two-seater filled with eight other RB-or-Slot bug types.
  • Hopkins signed up to maybe be the thunder guy in case they wanted to keep that job after Minor left, but still had to contend with the boatload of slot bugs.

The list of guys who didn't commit to imposing depth charts full of established and/or hyped underclassmen reads thusly: Kelly Baraka, David Underwood, Pierre Rembert, Darnell Hood, Alijah Bradley, Jerome Jackson. The moral: if you want to be the starting tailback for Michigan you always have to compete against other highly rated backs. This isn't coach speak; it's the standard. A running back who commits here is almost 50% likely to end up at another position or another school. Standard operating procedure is to arrive behind an established junior star and last year's freshman phenom, and if you manage to earn carries against those guys there's still two more classes of blue chip backs arriving after you to steal them.

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Enough Carries to Go Around

So two things are true: Michigan has for a long time recruited many more guys than they need at the running back position, and the position has experienced a lot of attrition and position switches. The latter was probably by design; Lloyd Carr recruited at least Weathers, Woody Hankins (who was an RB as a freshman and as a junior), Ian Gold, Jon Shaw, Charles Drake and Darnell Hood with the idea of a defensive swap in mind. Anyway it never stopped the parade of hyped backs to Ann Arbor, despite the fact that until 2008 the coaches always preferred a feature back kind of system. A quick look at the numbers shows there were a lot of carries slipping through the starters' grasps:

Year Starting Tailback Class Carries ALL RB Carries % RB Carries
1993 Tyrone Wheatley JR 207 422 49.1%
1994 Tyrone Wheatley SR 210 434 48.4%
1995 Tshimanga Biakabutuka JR 303 530 57.2%
1996 Clarence Williams SO 202 420 48.1%
1997 Chris Howard SR 199 490 40.6%
1998 Anthony Thomas SO 167 453 36.9%
" Clarence Williams SR 146 " 32.2%
1999 Anthony Thomas JR 301 377 79.8%
2000 Anthony Thomas SR 319 472 67.6%
2001 B.J. Askew JR 199 393 50.6%
2002 Chris Perry JR 267 440 60.7%
2003 Chris Perry SR 338 459 73.6%
2004 Michael Hart FR 282 392 71.9%
2005 Michael Hart SO 150 399 37.6%
" Kevin Grady FR 121 " 30.3%
2006 Michael Hart JR 318 464 68.5%
2007 Michael Hart SR 265 436 60.8%
2008 Sam McGuffie FR 118 309 38.2%
" Brandon Minor JR 103 " 33.3%
2009 Brandon Minor SR 96 290 33.1%
" Carlos Brown SR 81 " 28.0%
2010 Vincent Smith SO 136 265 51.3%
2011 Fitzgerald Toussaint SO 187 292 64.0%
Total ALL STARTERS (not itals) -- 3,832 6,881 55.7%

Note: In years with two players listed, the one in italics is the nominal backup who got carries due to the nominal starter's injury. Their stories are intricate and known. Anyhoo, speaking to this year's freshmen, if anything it's not the other backs they should be worried about; it's Denard taking carries away from the entire RB corps.Fitzgerald Toussaint

The closest comparison to the situation for a hypothetical three-man 2013 class is probably 2004 (the year Hart won the job), since there's a lot of guys on the roster now whose profiles would suggest "just a guy" more than "future star." Any year between 1997 and 2000 makes a good case study for a seemingly insurmountable climb for any one recruit, but even in the heart of the A-Train years there were plenty of carries that went to guys like Justin Fargas and B.J. Askew. There were also plenty of Ryan Beard/Walter Cross/Ray Jackson/Pat McCall types who came with hype and couldn't crack the depth chart.

This is what Wyatt Shallman and Deveon Smith are signing up for. Given Michigan's history of stockpiling talent at this position, adding a five-star to this class is no deviation from the norm; in fact it would probably bring us closer to a "typical" depth chart. Fitz will be a senior when these guys arrive, and none of Drake Johnson/Dennis Norfleet/Justice Hayes/Thomas Rawls at this point should seem more insurmountable than, say, a Jerome Jackson. On the other hand an Isaac commit would mean carrying eight scholarship backs in 2013, something we haven't done since 1997. It's way too early to predict this kind of stuff but I'm sure jamiemac wouldn't call you crazy for a Justice Hayes to receiver prop. And while we can't ever plan for transfers, busts, or injuries, and I certainly hope all of these guys play out their eligibility, I don't think anybody is willing to bet on that. If Michigan wants to take another blue chip, history says there is room and opportunities available. However it's not the year Michigan can afford a scholarship for a depthy flier dude to keep up alumni relations or something like that.

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Special thanks to the Bentley Library, Rivals and Scout.com, and Sandeep Vijan.

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Of The Decade: Michigan's Offense

Of The Decade: Michigan's Offense Comment Count

Brian July 20th, 2010 at 12:14 PM

A series covering Michigan's aughts. Previously: obsessive ESPN image breakdown.

This is a fairly standard pick-your-team exercise covering the 2000-2009 seasons. One note on the methodology: instead of considering careers we will consider individual years.

QUARTERBACK

john-navarre John Navarre (2003)

There are only two real options since Michigan saw two players occupy seven of the ten available starting slots and was robbed what should have been rampaging senior campaigns by Drew Henson (signed away by the Yankees) and Henne (constant injury). They are Navarre's first-team All Big Ten performance in 2003, the—sigh—last time a Michigan QB actually beat Ohio State, or Henne's junior year, when he could hardly be blamed for an Ohio State loss in which he guided his team to 39 points.

Season totals for those two years:

  Att Cmp Pct Yards YPA TD Int
Navarre '03 456 270 59.2 3331 12.3 24 10
Henne '06 328 203 61.9 2508 12.4 22 8

Very little to choose from. Both ended up losing to USC in the Rose Bowl in games of approximately equal competitiveness (not very), though Navarre's trip seemed more doomed by fate—one USC touchdown set up by a ball bouncing off Braylon's heel and ricocheting directly to a defender—than Henne's.

The edge is Navarre's if only because of that attempts number. Michigan '03 relied far more heavily on his arm than Michigan '06 did on Henne's, passing 47% of the time to '06's 37%. Yes, Chad Henne threw less than 40% of the time in 2006. That just goes to show the Lloyd Carr ideal: have a defense so ridiculous that you can grind out low-risk touchdowns against everyone not named Notre Dame and Ohio State. It did work once, and it almost worked in '06.

Digression over. Your shocking winner is John Navarre, a guy who was utterly and unfairly loathed during his wobbly sophomore year—during which he should have been watching Henson, anyway—to the point where it was hard to figure out where his transition from liability to asset occurred. Whenever it was, it was before the 2002 Ohio State game. Michigan spent that running into the line for nothing on first and second down before deploying Navarre to pick up the third down with a laser-accurate pass to Edwards, Joppru, or Bellamy. Edwards lost a critical touchdown on a questionable offensive pass interference call and Navarre was blasted from behind on what should have been the game-winning drive. Michigan was only able to get down to the OSU 30 before they had to take a shot at the endzone with the last seconds on the clock. My friends and I wrapped arms around each other during the timeout, and I thought he could do it.

Second String: Henne (2006).

The obvious runner-up. Other candidates are inferior seasons by the above two quarterbacks, Henson's eight-game run as Michigan's starter in 2000, and then the horrible last two years. Since Henne concluded his career during the MGoEra we can turn to a column written after the '07 Michigan State game for a summary of how he played:

I first thought "Chad Henne is a robot" a long time ago.

It was the middle of 2004. A then-freshman Henne strode onto the turf at Michigan Stadium facing a four point deficit against Minnesota. The ball was on the Michigan thirteen; the clock read 3:04.

Five plays and 56 yards later, Henne zeroed in on Z45 Part A Subsequence C Tight End Tyler Ecker, Rabbit-Hunting Mormon, crossing in front of a Minnesota linebacker; various servos and hydraulics kicked in. Henne flung a pass into Z45PASCTETERHM's outstretched arms, declared GOAL COMPLETED, and initiated nailcoeds.exe.

This weekend, now-senior Chad Henne strode onto the turf at Spartan Stadium facing a ten point deficit. He was 6 for 19 for 83 yards at that point, 47 of which came on a single bomb to Mario Manningham. The clock read 7:35.
Henne had been awful. Whether it was the unpredictable wind or his separated shoulder or some combination of the two doesn't really matter. He had been missing open receivers all day, flinging balls into the turf or the sideline or taking sacks he didn't have to. He and Brian Hoyer were locked into a duel to see who could torpedo his team's chances more thoroughly; Henne was winning. In the Michigan section, faith was running low. On the Michigan State sideline Jehuu Caulcrick was exhorting the Spartans to remember this moment, the moment they beat Michigan.

Caulcrick forgot one thing: Chad Henne is a robot.

On the last two drives he was 12-14 for 129 yards, flinging wide open outs, finding Mathews on a critical third and long, and looping perfect touchdown passes to Greg Mathews and Mario Manningham. He was ruthless, precise, and busy calculating digits of pi deep into the millions. He has a heart of nails and lungs made from old tires; his hair consists of pipe cleaners cropped short and his bones are discarded pipes. You have to whack him in just the right spot at just the right time to get his late-model Soviet guidance chip to seat itself in his shoddy southeast Asian motherboard.

Excellence was good, man.

RUNNING BACK

chris-perry Chris Perry (2003)

A bloody fight here. Your candidates:

  Att Yards Avg TD Long Catches Yds Avg TD
Anthony Thomas '00 319 1733 5.4 18 68 17 271 15.9 1
Chris Perry '03 338 1674 5 18 63 44 367 8.3 2
Michael Hart '06 318 1562 4.9 14 54 17 125 7.4 0
Michael Hart '04 282 1455 5.2 9 34 26 237 9.1 1
Michael Hart '07 265 1361 5.1 14 61 8 50 6.3 0

Close statistically with Perry's herculean, 51-carry Michigan State game pushing him past the two main contenders in terms of carries. Perry was much more frequently used in the passing game, though a 70-yard screen TD for Thomas against Ohio State made him more explosive. Thomas surpasses everyone else in terms of yards and has a significant edge in YPC, but as we're about to see a large part of that has something to do with the preposterously stacked 2000 line, which currently has four NFL starters and one Hall of Famer. Hart and Perry never had that luxury.

Perry wins here, though, for the silverware. This is in addition to the Doak Walker:

The Bo Schembechler Most Valuable Player of the 2003 football team, Perry was a finalist for the Heisman Memorial Trophy, placing fourth in the balloting. He led the Big Ten with 128.8 rushing yards per game and was named the 2003 Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Year and the Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award recipient as the Big Ten's MVP.

It's brutally hard to leave out Mike Hart, but the methodology here favors the one supernova season over Hart's four (three and half) years of merely being awesome. Perry's gliding cuts and Navarre's addiction to him as an outlet win.

Second Team: Mike Hart (2006)

I know by the stats this is Thomas, but the stats don't reflect Hart's remarkably ability to glue the ball to his ribs when not inside the five against Florida and the infamous Northwestern game Thomas gave away without even being touched. Hart couldn't quite stay healthy enough to get past Perry, and that very reason makes me want to crumple up this post and start over with a career-focused outlook but it's postin' time and this is pushing 3000 words and the monster must be fed, so here he is and we're all a little bitter at Chris Perry for winning the Doak, but only just today. Hart, too, came in for summarizing in a game column, this one after the '07 Penn State game:

Mike Hart does not care. He does not care that he is the size of Toad and runs about as fast as Richard Nixon, who is dead. He does not care that Michigan ruined everything the first two games of the season as he rode a bike on the sideline. He does not care that some people think he should shut up. He does not care that his legs are on someone else's legs and there is no possible way he can worm the ball to the goal line. It takes someone like this to pull you back from despair and ennui, to turn emo week into something other than emo year.

Mike Hart does not care what came before.

All he cares about is getting there.

Third Team: Anthony Thomas (2000)

Okay, Thomas did fumble against Northwestern but he also put up 1733 yards by RAGING his way directly at defenders. The original Brandon Minor, Thomas was briefly an NFL star before his inability to change direction without bouncing off something caught up with him.

FULLBACK

Kevin Dudley (2004)

Dudley was the inspiration for this description of the fullback's job that still lingers on as one of phrases I'm proud to have turned:

Minus Dudley, last year's fullback spot was manned by a motley crew of confused squat guys more likely to whiff entirely than crush a linebacker into a white-hot furrow of snapped limbs and smoke.

For this, and his ability to create that furrow, he gets the nod.

WIDE RECEIVER

Braylon Edwards(2002-4, pick a year), Mario Manningham (2007), Steve Breaston (slot)(2006)

It's a brutal competition when a guy who went eighth overall in the NFL draft and another guy in the midst of what will be a productive 10-year NFL career don't make the first team, but Michigan was blessed with a ridiculous wealth of options. Since the team has moved to a spread system and even before that used a three-wide formation as its base for virtually the entire Breaston era, we will include him as the prototypical slot ninja.

The first winner is obvious. For all his problems catching simple slants, Braylon Edwards remains the second most terrifying receiver to ever put on a winged helmet:

This is not up for debate.

The second outside receiver slot is a war between the junior years of David Terrell and Mario Manningham. The stats:

  Catches Yards Avg TD Long
Terrell '00 67 1130 16.9 14 57
Manningham '07 72 1174 16.3 12 97

Like quarterback, there is little to choose from. One small push in Manningham's direction: he rushed for 120 yards on 19 carries; Terrell had two rushes for 12 yards. (Terrell's team played one fewer game than Manningham's did, but Mario was suspended for the EMU beating in '07, so they're even as far as playing time goes.)

Both labored through iffy quarterback situations, with Manningham saddled with about four games' worth of Ryan Mallett and another four games in which Chad Henne's shoulder was essentially nonfunctional. Despite this he lit up the heart of the Big Ten schedule, going six straight weeks with more than 100 yards receiving and at least one touchdown, with the high point a five catch, 162-yard performance against Minnesota. He was shut down in the Ohio State game that year as Michigan chose between a one-armed Henne and a then chicken-brained Mallett, but rebounded to post 131 yards of total offense and a touchdown in the Citrus Bowl against Florida.

Meanwhile, Terrell was saddled with a freshman Navarre through the bulk of the nonconference schedule. That didn't matter much statistically, as he put up at least 82 yards and usually just around 100 in the games Navarre was forced to play in, but it didn't help. When Henson returned it was a steady diet: about six catches, approximately 100 yards except for the Penn State game, one win over Ohio State and a bowl nuking of Auburn (34 yards a catch on four receptions and a touchdown).

The verdict: Manningham by a nose, who had fewer opportunities to make an impact in Michigan's injury-stricken '07 offense and added more production on the ground than Terrell did. This is a reversal from the All Carr team, FWIW.

Finally, Steve Breaston is included as a slot receiver on my first team since Michigan fullbacks were increasingly situational players as Michigan moved to a modern passing offense, and then a spread, as the Henne era progressed. Dudley was the last true fullback to be able to claim anything approximating a starting job, and even before that there were a couple years in which BJ Askew was the team's top FB. Over the course of the decade the third receiver got more playing time than the FB.

Anyway, the third receiver goes inside one of the outside guys in a place called the slot and the man who defined the position at Michigan in the aughts was all-purpose ninja Steve Breaston. Nicknamed "Black Jesus" before he even saw the field by cynical messageboarders wary of his massive practice hype giving way to a skinny version of Grady Brooks, Breaston took all of one game to establish himself a threat, returning four punts for an average of 26 yards against Central Michigan. By the Illinois game he'd set a team record for punt return yardage despite having two long touchdowns called back on irrelevant penalties; subsequent opponents refused to kick to him. As a kick returner he took one to the house for the first time since the 80s against Minnesota, returned virtually every kickoff to midfield in the '05 Rose Bowl, and set up The New Math Henne-to-Manningham connection with another return to midfield against Penn State the next year. Steve Breaston went to work immediately.

As a receiver Breaston was the inspiration for the UFR receiverchart, which was a direct response to people complaining about Breaston's hands. They weren't necessarily wrong—the Year of Infinite Pain kicked off in earnest with a 17-10 loss to Notre Dame in which Breaston got open deep twice and dropped sure touchdowns—but the chart did its job, showing that Breaston's hands were an overrated flaw. His best year was '06, and while he never recaptured the magic of his freshman year in the return game that was largely because teams stopped punting to him (and Michigan, infuriatingly, refused to double the gunners). Only Anthony Carter, also the guy preventing Braylon Edwards from being the bar-none most terrifying Michigan receiver of all time, stands between Breaston and the title of Michigan receiver you'd pick to throw a bubble screen to if your life depended on it.

Second Team: David Terrell (2000), Jason Avant(2005), Marquise Walker (2001)

Terrell was just discussed. No one else quite matched his productivity save Marquise Walker, and when Walker and Terrell shared the spotlight Terrell was the man.

Avant, meanwhile, is the player I'd pick if someone was holding a gun to my head and said he'd pull the trigger unless Michigan converted this third and five. I still remember the fourth and two pass at the end of the 2004 Ohio State game that clanged off Braylon's hands, and remembering that I really, really wish that ball had gone to Avant. Here's why:

At some point during 2005 Avant dropped a third down pass that hit him in the hands, and that more than anything was an indication that it just wasn't Michigan's year.

Avant also might be the nicest guy to ever play for Michigan—up there with Brandon Graham. The only person who can't root for Avant is Christopher Hitchens.

Walker was a combo of Avant and Edwards, blessed with Edwards's leaping and Avant's ability to make the spectacular catch but cursed with Avant's lack of electric speed and Edwards's tendency to drop routine balls. It seemed like the latter flaw was something that popped up after he sustained a brutal hit early in his senior year; after that the footsteps got in his head and he alligator-armed a couple passes per game. That may have been a result of his increased deployment; once Terrell left for the NFL he went from 49 catches in a supporting role to 86 as the man in Navarre's bumpy sophomore year. He did do this:

And that alone is worthy of mention.

TIGHT END

bennie-joppru Bennie Joppru (2002)

There is no competition. Joppru came from nowhere to become John Navarre's safety blanket, a big white Minnesota version of Avant before Avant was around. By the time he'd finished his breakout senior season he'd set a Michigan record for tight end receptions that still stands and worked his way into the second round of the NFL draft. The Texans took him, whereupon he tore his ACL in training camp every year.

Second Team: Bill Seymour (2001)

It wasn't a good decade for tight ends. Seymour was a steady two-year starter that didn't get injured all the time, have meat for brains, or fail to pitch it to Steve Breaston. He wins basically by default.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Jake Long (2007), Steve Hutchinson (2000), David Baas (2004), Jon Goodwin (2001), Jeff Backus (2000)

The first three are cake easy. Jake Long was dominant and became the first pick in the NFL draft. Hutchinson went in the first round to the Vikings and is in the midst of a Hall-of-Fame NFL career. Baas won the Rimington award. All were All-Americans their senior year. Lock, lock, lock.

The right side of the line is trickier. We're not distinguishing between right and left tackles because players tend to move to the left as they get better, we're just trying to assemble the best possible team. So we'll flip Jeff Backus from left to right tackle and put him opposite long. Backus was first round pick of the Lions and has started 144 NFL games, all with the league's most sad-sack franchise. At Michigan he was All Big Ten two years running and won the Hugh Rader award as Michigan's best lineman those same two years, sharing it with Hutchinson and Mo Williams on 2000's ridiculously stacked line.

The other guard spot is something of a downer compared to the All-Americans surrounding him, but Jon Goodwin was All Big Ten in 2001 and, unlike a couple of other ABT recipients later in the decade, seemed to deserve it. He's still in the NFL with the Saints.

Second Team: Adam Stenavich (2005), Adam Kraus (2006), David Brandt (2000), Steve Schilling(2009), Mo Williams (2000)

Williams is the most obvious, another member of the insanely stacked 2000 line who is still in the NFL. Sharing a best lineman award with Hutchinson and Backus is no shame, either. Stenavich is next, a two-time All Big Ten selection. This blog caught the end of his career and found it to be pretty good. He edges out Mark Ortmann, another good-not-great left tackle. The interior is something of a mess. Brandt, the final member of the insanely stacked 2000 line, gets a tentative nod over Dave Pearson and David Molk's freshman(!) year; Kraus and Schilling are the best of an uninspiring bunch, with Kraus's 2006 better than his '07.

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