This week: I’ve been leaving out pre-Nineties players because I didn’t gain consciousness until well into the Eighties. We’ll leave the Best of Bo for Sap. These are Pre-Bo. Also this one’s going to be long because a lot of these guys are probably unfamiliar to you.
I did not run any of this past Greg Dooley, who studies this stuff, or the UM Bentley Library guys who curate it, or Craig Ross, who was alive for all of it, and I reserve the right to edit based on anything they might choose to add because they know this stuff way better than I do.
Rules: Players are considered for how they compared to other players of their own time—a 180-pound center from a Point-a-Minute team wouldn’t survive a series versus one of Woody Hayes’s defensive lines; on the other hand Bump’s players didn’t have to worry about cholera. Pre-platooning players can be eligible for both sides of the ball.
Cutoff Point: To avoid overlap the majority of his playing time had to come before 1969. Just give Bump some credit for recruiting the excellent 1968 class.
Foul Language Warning: The faint at heart might want to skip tight end.
Who was Michigan’s greatest quarterback ever debatable, but this much is not: He was certainly Jewish.
I’m going with Benny Friedman over Harry Newman. Friedman was the game’s first great passer, but still more Denard Robinson than Tom Brady. Back in the day freshmen were still not allowed to play varsity, so in 1923 the Glenville (yes, a powerhouse even then) product had to resign himself to embarrassing his classmates. In 1924 Yost was Barry Alvarez-ing over his handpicked successor George Little, and Little refused to put Benny, already a campus legend, on the field. Until, that is, Michigan lost to Red Grange’s Illinois, and a furious Yost joined the campus chorus to play Friedman. The result was immediate and spectacular. After ‘24 Yost sent Little packing, inserted Friedman as his starting QB, and in concert with a certain future Michigan head coach, outscored opponents 227 to 3*. The following year they lost only to eventual national champion Navy (a team Benny and Bennie handled 54-0 at home in ‘25). Friedman also kicked every field goal and extra point, led the team in rushing, returned a kickoff 85 yards, threw more TD passes than the rest of the Big Ten combined, and called every play.
* [As luck would have it the 3 went to Northwestern in a ridiculous 3-2 mudfest that got the safety rule changed and nearly got Evanston burned to the ground; Craig Ross wrote about it in HTTV 2015.]
Honorable Mention: Harry Newman, who went 24-1-2 as a starter and should be counted among Heisman winners except they called it the Fairbanks Trophy back then. Big Bob Timberlake
Every five years or so, a group of old Michigan players from mid-1940s would gather to share old stories and relive the camaraderie of one of the closest teams to ever put on the winged helmet. The team featured the All-American backfield duo of Bob Chappuis and Bump Elliott, not to mention Howard Yerges, Bob Mann, and future All-Americans Alvin Wistert, Pete Elliott, Dick Rifenburg, and Robert Wahl. But when you ask the history guys who really made that team go, their answer is always the same guy, and not one of the above. He was also, coincidentally, the guy organizing the reunions.
As they last met in 2008, 2013 was supposed to be the next such get-together. Some of the guys are still out on the golf course, but the years have dealt the losses to these men that their 1946-'49 opponents never could, and of those that remain to us, too few can responsibly make the journey for a 2013 reunion. So we'll have it here instead, as MGoBlog had the opportunity to interview the man at the heart of one of Michigan's all-time greatest teams, spinning fullback Jack Weisenburger.
Last week I had the opportunity to spend a short time speaking with Jack on the phone about his time at Michigan, from his recruitment to the changes he witnessed in wartime, to the team. His story and theirs, after the jump.
…so thanks for that. The Michigan section is devoid of anything like dong-punching, but only thanks to this guy and his rageohol:
This is not me. I was in the stadium one row behind an adorable child. I swear it.
Penn State implosion explanation, implications. How did Illinois run for almost 300 yards against Penn State's normally tough defense? It was the second string D:
Linebacker Gerald Hodges: Missed his fourth game with a hairline fracture but has begun running.
Defensive end Jack Crawford: Foot injury, spent game on crutches on the sideline, might need surgery, Paterno said.
Linebacker Mike Mauti: Missed game with a high ankle sprain.
Linebacker Bani Gbadyu: Knee injury.
[Ed: these two are my additions.] Defensive end Sean Stanley: suspended for violations of team rules.
Cornerback Derrick Thomas: suspended for violations of team rules.
Defensive end Eric Latimore: Sustained wrist injury on first play, could be out for an extended period.
Defensive back Nick Sukay: Possible torn pectoral muscle, also could be out for a while.
Defensive end Pete Massaro: Treated for dehydration symptoms and played with an injured left quadriceps.
Defensive back Andrew Dailey: Sustained possible stinger on helmet-to-helmet hit in second half.
Defensive tackle Jordan Hill: Aggravated previous ankle injury.
That's eleven guys from the two-deep, all of whom have seen significant playing time. Michigan plays Penn State in three weeks. It sounds like Sukay, Latimore, and Crawford will definitely be out. Mauti and Hodges could be out, too, and who knows what's with Stanley and Thomas. If it's serious enough for them to miss two games it's 50-50 they'll miss four.
While that sucks for PSU that opens the ever-widening window of opportunity Michigan has in Happy Valley. That will be a critical game for Rich Rodriguez unless Michigan pulls off the upset against Iowa, in which case it will only be a very important game.
The vault.MGoVideo has put a bunch of old newsreels from the 50s and 60s on the tubes. I linked one on the sidebar yesterday that didn't end so well. None of them actually end that well, though, since they're reels from the 50s, when Michigan was no good. The best I can do is a 6-2-1 Michigan keeping the Brown Jug in 1949:
Michigan's 1947 Wolverines are a good bet to be the second team in Michigan's history to play in Pasadena's Tournament of Roses. They have been rated the nation's best. They are as unlike Fielding ("Hurry-Up") Yost's old-time Michigan teams as modern design can make them. There are no roughcast iron men on Michigan's 1947 squad. It is a collection of chrome-plated, hand-tooled specialists. Some never get a chance to make a tackle, others never throw a block. Usually none stays in a game long enough to work up as much sweat as the radio announcer, who tries to keep track of them as they trot on & off.
Michigan's shrewd Coach Fritz Crisler has taken advantage of the unlimited substitution rule. In the first four games of the season, Crisler's team used everyone but the water boy, and averaged 55 points a game.
The way they did it was something to behold. Lacking brawn, they have to be nimble. And jack-nimble is what they are —and as well-drilled as the Rockettes.
And if they had sports talk radio back then someone would call in to grouse about how this team is soft and doesn't compare to what all they had in dickety-two when Michigan beat back the Kaiser and called it a day. It's crazy that Crisler invented platooning—that anyone had to say "hey, now, maybe I should get people off the field from time to time." Also he said this:
"Confound it, if you want to be sensational, bounce the ball, turn a somersault, then pick it up and run."
This is exactly what Rodriguez says to Mike Cox.
Also, things were slightly more relaxed in 1947 when it came to everything. 24 year-old star Robert Chappius is described as such:
At the Phi Delt house, where he is president for the second year, he is a sharp bridge player and a whizz at cribbage. His card sense helps augment his G.I. allotment and the $50 a month he gets from his dad, who is an executive in a Toledo, O., porcelain-products company. On the practice field, Chappuis is very "coachable," which is exceptional in a senior. Chappuis learns easily, just as he does in the classroom, where he makes a C-plus average seemingly without ever opening a book.
Gambling! C+ averages despite never opening books! Coachable despite being a senior! In 1947 anything short of stabbing a man was good, and even that might be okay if the guy seemed German.
Iowa injury bits. Starting MLB Jeff Tarpinian is questionable. He played a little bit early in the Penn State game but left with an assortment of stingers, sending senior Troy Johnson into the lineup. Johnson got a "minor" concussion and was replaced by freshman James Morris.
So who is it this week? The Hawkeye depth chart lists Johnson first and Morris second—no Tarpinian. Everyone else save the battered tailback corps, now Adam Robinson and some freshmen, should be ready to go.
Firin' talk moratorium notification. This was inevitably going to happen after the first loss and it has happened so a note to emailers and whoever else: I'm not going to speculate on whether or not Rodriguez should or will be fired when there are six important data points coming up in the next month and a half.