Throughout the last fifteen years there have just been some Michigan players that make you say "wow. From the freakish athletes to the constant bangers to the seemingly 'overachievers', there will be some expected and some unexpected names on this list. Sit back, relax, and relive some of the greatest Michigan players of the past fifteen seasons.
5) LaMarr Woodley
Woodley came to Michigan as the best high school player in the state of Michigan and a consensus 5* recruit. After moving from linebacker to defensive line his freshman year, Woodley saw spot duty. Occasional playing time was seen at outside linebacker when Michigan ran a 3-4 alignment; Woodley's last two seasons on campus were his best, his senior year being the pinnacle. Staring on the best defense a Wolverine squad fielded in ten years, Woodley was a constant presence in the opponents backfield and a large part of Michigan's 10-0 start. A cult hero in Ann Arbor, fans had Woodley T-Shirts made about him stating 'Guns don't kill people, LaMarr Woodley kills people'.
Most Memorable Plays:
-Knocking 25 years off Drew Stanton's life in the 2004 Michigan/Michigan State game, preventing Stanton from returning in the process.
-Picking up a Notre Dame fumble and rumblin' 54 yards for a TD, stiff-arming Irish TE John Carlson and leaving Carlson in his wake.
177 tackles, 47 tackles for loss, 24 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, 5 pass breakups. Won 2006 Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the best lineman (offense or defense) in the nation.
4) Brandon Graham
Much like LaMarr Woodley before him, Graham was a consensus 5*, the best player in the state, and came to Michigan as a linebacker. Graham took several years to mature as a player and after a disappointing sophomore campaign in which preseason practice reports of him transforming into a typhoon and leaving offensive linemen scattered, hysterical, around Washtenaw County never came to fruition people began to wonder what the hype was all about. For whatever reason, whether it was the typical jump from sophomore to junior year, 'Magic' Mike Barwis, or some combination of the above Graham turned into a terror. His senior year Graham was one of a few good players on the team and the only elite player on the D. Graham, unlike Woodley, did not benefit from good-to-great players around him yet still managed to battle through double- and sometimes triple-teams and was a menace to opposing offenses.
Most Memorable Plays:
-Essentially, whenever the defense needed a big play over the past two seasons Graham made it or no one did. Graham blew through the MSU line and transformed Glen Winston from 'human being' to 'smoking crater' in no time flat.
-His blocked-punt TD vs. Delaware State defined Graham: making the big plays when needed, but putting in the blue-collar work in every facet of the game, in this case volunteering to play special teams as a senior.
138 tackles, 56 TFL, 29.5 sacks, 8 FF, 3 FR, 2 blocked punts
3) Braylon Edwards
Braylon Edwards, son of former Wolverine Stan Edwards, came to Michigan as a mid-level recruit. Edwards first came onto the radar of Michigan fans as the 2002 season approached. Braylon, who had worn the number 80 his freshman year, requested to wear the legendary number 1. Lloyd Carr scoffed and told him to earn it. Edwards broke onto the national scene, as he had a few fine receptions in the opener against Washington and took off from there, slowly morphing from a serviceable receiver to great college receiver to destined for the next level. Edwards had several amazing catches, including a few over/away from defenders and turned the 2004 Michigan/Michigan State game (the same one Woodley murdered Drew Stanton in front of 111,000 people and got away with it) into what will forever be known as "the Braylon game".
Though he constantly made the impossible, acrobatic catches, Edwards tended to drop a few easy passes thrown his way.
Most Memorable Plays:
-Pick one, any one.
252 receptions for 3,541 yards and 39 TDs. Edwards won the Biletnikoff Award in 2004, given annually to the best receiver in college football.
2) Jake Long
Long came to Michigan in the same recruiting class as LaMarr Woodley. Coming in as a 4* offensive line prospect, Long did what every incoming freshman lineman has done since the creation of football and redshirted. After starting his first year at right tackle, Jake moved to the left side and produced more pancakes than Bisquick. Long was never called for a penalty and only allowed one sack his senior season (to Ohio State man-beast Vernon Gholston). Jake was also the reason every Michigan fan simultaneously sighed and said "stretch off-tackle left" every time the down marker read "1" and Michigan had the ball. Despite the obnoxious predictability the runs usually went for positive yardage, in part because of Mike Hart's ridiculously difficult-to-tackle frame but mostly because whoever Long blocked looked like they had been run over by a semi.
Final Statline: Two-time 1st Team All-Big Ten, Two-time Offensive Lineman of the Year, Two-time 1st-Team All-American.
1) Charles Woodson
Simply put, Charles Woodson is the most dominant Michigan player ever witnessed. The man literally shut off half the field and was a very, very large reason the 1997 team, and defense in particular, went 12-0 and won the National Title. Woodson was also deployed on offense as a wide receiver and special teams as a punt returner. Wherever he lined up, "Sir Charles" was always a threat the change the game in a split second. From his two interception game as a freshman against Ohio State to any of the spectacular plays he made his junior season (one-handed pick at MSU, TD reception at Penn State, punt return TD and interception to clinch the Heisman versus Ohio State, or interception in the endzone in the Rose Bowl), Woodson made you say 'wow' every week.
Most Memorable Plays: Even though Woodson is best remembered for his PR TD against Ohio State to put Michigan up 13-0, momentum had swung to the Buckeyes side after they blocked Michigan's extra point attempt. Driving deep in Wolverine territory, OSU had a 2nd-and-Goal from the 2 when they attempted a pass into the endzone...and "Sir Charles" intercepted the pass, not only ending the Buckeyes scoring threat but slamming, bolting, welding, and bombarding the door shut on any momentum Ohio State had and, ultimately, preserving the victory.
Playing the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit, Woodson intercepted a pass and took it to the house...and celebrated by throwing up "the Heisman". A few years too late, but still.
Final Statline: 11 carries, 173 yards, 2 TDs; 25 receptions, 402 yards, 3 TDs; 47 punt returns, 407 yards, 1 TD; 182 tackles, 7 TFL, 1 sack, 3 FR, 30 PBU, 18 INT. Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year ('96, '97), Big Ten DPOTY ('96, '97), 1st Team All-American ('96, '97), Nagurski DPOTY ('97), Walter Camp DPOTY ('97), Thorpe (Best DB) Award 1997, Chuck Bednarik (Best Defensive Player) 1997, Heisman Trophy Winner 1997.
There you have it, the top ten most dominating Wolverines of the past fifteen seasons. This was very, very hard to narrow down and come to grips with only having ten; at one point it was almost made into a top fifteen but the same problem with cutting people who should have gotten recognized popped up so it was left at ten.
Almost made it: Leon Hall, Marlin Jackson, Chad Henne (who loves him some 'gator), Stevie Breaston, Tom Brady
Honorable Mention: Jeff Backus, Steve Hutchinson, John Navarre, Marquise Walker, Victor Hobson, Alan "Tree" Branch, Bennie Joppru, Tai Streets