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Michigan Football: All-Time Wolverines Team

Charles Woodson, Michigan Wolverines Football

This lineup, which includes 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woods, spans 120 years of Michigan football.

The Michigan Wolverines were arguably college football’s first powerhouse. The sport’s all-time winningest program has claimed 11 national championships and 43 conference titles.

Related: 10 Greatest Michigan Football Teams of All Time

As I recently did with Notre Dame, if one were to take the best players and coaches from all of Michigan's teams (based on their level of success in college and/or the NFL) to put together an all-time lineup, the Wolverines would have a lineup that is comprised of coaches and players that span more than 120 years.

Let’s take a look, but as we do, note that I am going on an individual's peak success and how he would fare today, i.e., no 180-pound linemen or coaches who could not adjust past the single wing. Also, this team does not spend time focusing on the space-time continuum or scandals. With that in mind, let’s dive in.

Coaches

Head Coach: Bo Schembechler (1969-89)
Schembechler took over a Michigan program that had won one conference title in the last 18 seasons and dropped seven of the 10 previous contests with Ohio State. He went on to go 234-65-8, win 13 Big 10 titles, and post an 11-9-1 record against the Buckeyes during his 21 seasons with the Wolverines.

Offensive Coordinator: Fielding Yost (1901-23, '25-26)
At the beginning of the 20th Century, football was often just a violent pile of men slowly moving down the field and Yost developed offensive schemes so prolific that his teams were nicknamed “Point-a-Minute.” Imagine what he could do with a wide-open attack today.

Defensive Coordinator: Lloyd Carr (1995-2007)
The only Michigan head coach to win a national title in the last 70 years was the Wolverines' defensive coordinator from 1987 to 1994. Three of those squads were in the top 10 in scoring defense and his 1997 championship team was first.

Offense

QB: Tom Brady (1995-99)
Brady split time with Drew Henson while in Ann Arbor, but his seven Super Bowl rings and status as the NFL’s all-time leading passer means that his starting role is locked down on this all-time team.

RB: Mike Hart (2004-07)
Michigan’s all-time rushing leader with 5,040 yards also played three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

RB: Tyrone Wheatley (1991-94)
Wheatley averaged 6.1 yards a carry and scored 47 rushing touchdowns as a Wolverine. His 7.3 yards per attempt in 1992 is still a Michigan single-season record. He also averaged nearly four yards a carry and scored 40 touchdowns in 10 seasons in the NFL.

WR: Elroy Hirsch (1943)
“Crazylegs” played halfback during his one season with the Wolverines. When he signed with the Los Angeles Rams six years later, Hirsch was moved to an end/receiver position and went on to have a Hall of Fame career.

WR: Anthony Carter (1979-82)
Playing in an offense that was primarily a rushing attack, Carter averaged 19 yards a reception and scored 37 touchdowns as he earned All-American honors three times. He also was a two-time USFL All-Star and three-time Pro Bowler.

WR: Desmond Howard (1989-91)
Ironically, Howard came to Michigan as a tailback, but was moved primarily to receiver where he averaged 16 yards a reception and scored 32 touchdowns. He also won the Heisman Trophy in 1991. Howard had success in the NFL as a receiver but excelled as a return specialist and is the only one to be named Super Bowl MVP.

TE: Jim Mandich (1965-69)
Mandich finished his career as Michigan’s second all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards at a time when tight ends were not primary targets. He also won three Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers.

T: Dan Dierdorf (1967-70)
The former color analyst for Michigan football radio broadcasts was a two-time All-American and had a Hall of Fame career with the St. Louis Cardinals.

G: Steve Hutchinson (1996-2000)
Hutchinson earned starting guard honors during his freshman year in 1997 and won a national title. He then earned unanimous All-American honors in 2000 on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

C: David Baas (2001-04)
Baas was moved from guard to center midway through his senior year and was so good that he was a co-recipient of the Dave Rimington Trophy, which is given to college football’s best center. He went on to start 84 games in the NFL and win a Super Bowl with the New York Giants.

G: Tom Mack (1963-65)
While he played tackle at Michigan, Mack was primarily a guard in the NFL and had a Hall of Fame career.

T: Jake Long (2003-07)
Long was a two-time consensus All-American and made the Pro Bowl four times during his nine-season NFL career.

Defense

DE: Len Ford (1945-47)
After excelling on both offense and defense on Michigan’s 1947 national championship team, Ford played for the Los Angeles Dons and then signed with the Cleveland Browns in 1950. Head coach Paul Brown immediately moved him to defensive end full-time and Ford became one of the best defensive players of the 1950s with a knack for forcing fumbles. During his eight seasons, the Browns made the NFL title game seven times and gave up the fewest points in the league six times. In 1976, he was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

DT: Maurice Hurst Jr. (2014-17)
In 2017, Hurst recorded 13.5 tackles for a loss and was a consensus All-American. Injuries and COVID-19 have slowed what was a promising NFL career.

DT: Alan Branch (2003-06)
Branch played defensive end and defensive tackle at Michigan, but was moved to the interior full time in the NFL. Although he did struggle with substance abuse during his career, he also won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.

DE: Aidan Hutchinson (2018-21)
While he has not played a down in the NFL yet, Hutchinson’s 18.5 sacks and 25 tackles for a loss in two seasons as a starter in college are enough to earn him this spot.

LB: LaMarr Woodley (2003-06)
Woodley played defensive end at Michigan and won the Ted Hendricks Award in 2006. In the NFL, he was moved to outside linebacker where he made the Pro Bowl and won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

LB: Mark Messner (1985-88)
Michigan’s all-time career sacks leader (36) played defensive tackle for the Wolverines. However, his frame (6-3, 225) made him more suited for linebacker and that's where he played in the NFL.

LB: Ron Simpkins (1976-79)
Simpkins finished his career as Michigan’s all-time leader in tackles and played eight seasons in the NFL.

LB: David Harris (2003-06)
Harris did not become a full-time starter until his junior year, but his 191 tackles over those last two seasons got the attention of NFL scouts. During his 11-season career with the New York Jets and New England Patriots, he recorded 36.5 sacks, forced 11 fumbles, and snagged six interceptions.

DB: Ty Law (1992-94)
After earning All-American honors in 1994, Law was drafted by the New England Patriots, where he won three Super Bowls. He also led the league in interceptions twice and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.

DB: Charles Woodson (1995-97)
The only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy snagged 16 interceptions and defended 30 passes. In the NFL, Woodson returned an interception for a touchdown six seasons in a row on his way to the Hall of Fame.

DB: Dave Brown (1971-74)
The late Brown was a two-time All-American on a defense that shut out 11 of its opponents and gave up more than 10 points only five times in his three seasons as a starter. He also snagged 62 picks and returned five of them for touchdowns during his 15-season NFL career.

DB: Tom Curtis (1966-69)
Curtis’ 25 career interceptions are still a Michigan record, as are his 10 picks in 1968.

Special Teams

K: Jay Feely (1995-98)

After winning a national championship at Michigan in 1997, Feely played 14 seasons in the NFL and made 82.6 percent of his field goal attempts.

P: Zoltán Meskó (2005-09)
The Romanian-born punter averaged 44.5 yards a punt and earned All-American honors in 2009. During his four-season NFL career, he averaged 43.9 yards a kick.

RS: Jabrill Peppers (2014-16)
With Anthony Carter, Desmond Howard, Charles Woodson, and Dave Brown able to fill in on returns, let’s go with Peppers for this spot, as he averaged 13.1 yards per punt return and 25.4 yards on kick returns.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.