What could have been.....Michigan alumni

What could have been.....Michigan alumni

Submitted by AC1997 on September 30th, 2009 at 1:10 PM
There were two motivations for me writing this diary.  The first was a discussion I was having with friends about the top three former Michigan players at each position based on their NFL resume (the subject of a future diary perhaps?).  The second was a previous diary that Misopogon had written a few days ago: 

http://mgoblog.com/diaries/cissoko-v-sophomore-starters-michigan-yore

The subject of that diary was about how Cissoko looks to be the second coming of Todd Howard.  In some ways that will give you nightmares and in others it might leave you feeling mildly content a couple of years from now.  But that wasn't what struck me when I read that Diary.

What struck me was that in the past 15 years Michigan has always had a lock-down corner on the field in every year but three.  Here's the rundown:
  • '92 - '94 = Ty Law
  • '95 - '97 = Charles Woodson
  • '98 - '00 = ??? 
  • '01 - '04 = Marlin Jackson
  • '03 - '06 = Leon Hall
  • '07 - ?? = Donovan Warren

The two primary corners during that gap in '98-'00 were James Whitley and Todd Howard.  Whitley was supposed to be a stud recruit and I remember a quote from Woodson where he talked about Whitley potentially being better than he was.  Well, that obviously didn't happen.  Whitley will forever be known as a guy with decent speed and size who could run step for step with recievers but never make a play on the ball. 

You'll also remember this era as when Plexico "Rikers" Buress dominated Michigan to the point where Carr desperately put David Terrell in the game at CB in an attempt to slow him down.  This did not go well:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oXUUODm1mk 

So why am I bringing this up?  Well, there was an interesting Detroit Lions Notebook today in the Detroit News: 
http://detnews.com/article/20090930/SPORTS0101/909300345/1126/SPORTS/Will-James-making-case-to-keep-starting-spot

(Sidenote - Who knew that Carson Butler was only now being cut from an NFL practice squad?  And who knew that he is still considered a defensive end instead of a tight end?  Ahh Carson, what a weird trajectory your life has taken.) 

But the shocking thing to me from this notebook is that the Lions starting corner named Will James is the former Will Peterson of the 1997 Michigan National Championship team.  He left the program for reasons I can't recall (academics?) and went to Western Kentucky.  Since then he's been in the NFL for 8 seasons and has been a starter for part of that time. 

If you look at that original chart I put up you'll see that he would have been on the team during that post-Woodson void of a lock-down corner.  Maybe he would have been that guy?  It made me wonder what would have been different for Michigan had he been able to stay on the team.  Whitley would have been a good #2 CB and Howard would have been an excellent nickel back. 

So I end this diary with a challenge to the readers:  What other former UM players can you think of who ended up having solid careers but didn't last at Michigan?  Imagine how things could have been different if these players had stayed a full four years.  I'll get you started with some classics:

  • Trevor Pryce - He turned into a dominant NFL pass rusher after leaving Michigan.  If you look at the lack of elite pass rushers in Michigan history you have to wonder how great he could have been had he stayed. 
  • Justin Fargas - Probably the most memorable Michigan defectors of all time, he's had a solid NFL career at RB after he could never figure it out at Michigan and actually spent time at safety before transferring to USC.  I still can't figure out what happened (besides the injury) with his inability to be an effective RB for us.
  • Jon Ritchie - Despite being somewhat of a tool (personal experience from living in West Quad at the same time as him), he became an excellent NFL fullback and would have been a valuable asset for Carr had he finished his career there.