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Roundtable: Exploring Our Favorite Michigan Players

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Maryland v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Nick: Hey, guys! Hope everything is well. I wanted to get started this week by talking really quickly about one thing you’re looking forward to at the spring game. Who’s a guy you’re hoping to succeed tomorrow, for whatever reason?

Andrew: Kareem Walker. Already an afterthought to anyone outside of Ann Arbor, this young man deserves every ounce of success he achieves in 2017.

The academic struggles last season forced him to redshirt and now, after securing his academic position, he has an opportunity to reignite the 2016 hype train. Come on, who doesn’t like an underdog story? From Rocky to Rudy to Becky “The Icebox” O’Shea in Little Giants, everyone should want to see Walker succeed.

Will: Cesar Ruiz. I’d argue the inconsistency on the O-line is what has stood between Michigan and a conference title the past couple years. Ruiz emerging as the starting center wouldn’t fix that, but it would go a long way toward moving Mason Cole down the line and strengthening our run game.

Kullen: Drake Harris for sure. This guy was supposed to be the next great Michigan wide receiver and has had the worst luck ever with injury after injury. It feels like he’s been at Michigan for a decade and has about one quality catch. Harris has the talent and the drive and I want to see him become the star he was meant to be.

Jared: The lads touched on a few good ones already with Kareem and Drake. Harris is certainly in last chance territory at this point.

On the defensive side of the ball, I would like to see a defensive end not named Gary or Winovich to show me something. We have some intriguing options on the line and we need another one or two to step up. Guys like Carlo Kemp, Ron and Shelton Johnson, Lawrence Marshall could be a huge boost to our defense if we can get quality snaps out of them.

On offense, it would be nice to see some tight end production to help ease any fears about the depth at that position. You never replace a J Booty, but we need to iron out at least two guys who can get the job done there before the season starts.

Tanner: Would love to see Kareem Walker live up to that hype that was thrown on him after his junior season and commitment to Ohio State. Seems he was the forgotten man last year, and while he slipped on some sites, he was still a 5-star to Scout.com. I would love to see him be more of the balanced back to Chris Evans’ elusive, out of the backfield type back. Seeing him for the first time since last year will be a lot of fun and I have to imagine he will be looking to put on a show.

David: With 17 spots open after the talented group from last year has moved on, so a lot of new names for fans to get excited about. I am looking forward to seeing Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Like others, Kareem Walker is a name many have heard before, but not in a game yet. This offense will be filled with new names and many could be freshman.

Yes, this was Kareem Walker’s helmet in high school. Yes, it’s ironic considering what he’ll do to Sparty.

Nick: Alright, the main topic today is dealing with favorite Michigan players - probably football, but we’ll also dip into other sports and ask you who your favorite guys in blue are and why.

So firstly, who’s your favorite player on this 2017 football team?

Andrew: Rashan “headphones are always around my neck” Gary. In bursts last season, his talent was glaring and with several NFL departures, this should be his break-through season. He plays the game with a high motor and physical strength seldom seen for a sophomore defensive lineman.

Couple these with a year of technical knowledge from Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton and an infectious charisma, and it is impossible to not thrive off of his energy. A developing subplot this season will be if Gary can upset Mo Hurst for best sack celebration.

Will: I like Rashan to be the most dynamic player on this team, also. If his team combine 40-time was accurate, this guy has the potential to give us some Jadeveon Clowney moments this season (though from a more enjoyable side of the moment, to be sure). He’s the most freakish athlete on an increasingly athletic team, so he should be fun to watch.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Iowa
Dooooooooooom
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Eric: McDoom! Really hoping that he can see some more field time this year. With DPJ stretching the field, hopefully he can get some spacing.

Kullen: Donovan Peoples-Jones was my favorite football player the moment he committed to Michigan on live T.V. He is the complete package and could be the team’s top wide receiver from day one. He has already been turning heads with his insane athleticism. The fact that Harbaugh had to beat out OSU and MSU for his services makes it that much better as well. The kid will be a legend when it is all said and done.

Jared: Eddie McDoom has the best name in football, so he is certainly a favorite. I also really like Chris Evans, who we should all be referring to as Captain America at this point - come on guys.

It has been what feels like forever since we had a premiere back, and there is absolutely no reason Evans couldn’t be that guy. He is up about 10 to 15 pounds from last season, which should help with pass protection. Other than that, he really doesn’t have a weak point to his game. I have a sneaking suspicion he could be a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, and would like to see some more of that this season.

Tanner: Easy answer is Rashan Gary, and he probably is the guy who I’m most excited for, but my answer is going to be freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones. He could be the wildcard for the offense with his explosive playmaking ability. If he comes up with some solid numbers and makes a few plays in big games, this team’s ceiling goes way up. To the roof.

David: Speight. I know the other guys have great names and are hungry to play, but my pick is Wilton Speight. He ended the season with some doubting his decision making ability in tough road games against Iowa and Ohio State. He's got an opportunity to prove he's a leader and can move this young team into a great position to win the division if he can continue to improve his game.

Nick: Alright, who’s your favorite all-time Wolverine? How’d you start rooting for them?

Andrew: This has nothing to do with a recency bias, but for me, it is Jabrill Peppers. This was a tough decision, but I never got to watch Charles Woodson, Desmond Howard, or Anthony Carter live (or live on television) so to classify them as my favorites over Peppers seems unjust.

I witnessed Peppers live on several occasions and he brought an unprecedented electricity to the Big House (similar to when Gus Johnson called basketball games and when Usher’s Yeah! plays anywhere). He personified a ‘Michigan Man’ on and off the field, and is the only person I have ever seen rival Jim Harbaugh’s love for football. Peppers is unrivaled in my book.

Will: First, Andrew, thanks for reminding me I’m old, because I watched all those players, either at the Big House or on television. Yes, even AC.

NCAA Football: Hawaii at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

That said, I think Tyrone Wheatley was probably the most exciting player I’ve watched in a Michigan uniform. Denard was more electric an athlete, but he played for some pretty awful teams and had no business being a quarterback. But it was a rare game that Wheatley didn’t generate a big run - like, crazy big runs - and his Bo Jackson-esque combination of size and speed were monstrous at the college level.

Mike: It has to be Denard. Saddled with consistently terrible circumstances, his hilarious grin never left his face. I don’t know how much more he could have been under another coach, but I do know, because of turnover and Al Borges, the man never got to play in a coherent offensive system.

Instead, he just improvised his way to all sorts of absurd records. There’s something supremely admirable about being able to smile and push forward even as the ship is clearly sinking, and Denard did just that. Add to that that I was in school during the height of his powers and the fact that--aside from Desmond, maybe--he’s the most electrifying player in program history, and he’s an easy choice for me.

Iowa Hawkeyes v Michigan Wolverines Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Eric: Woodson. Not just for the national championship, but for bringing back some swagger. All the electricity of Peppers, but a better returner and a total shut-down DB (quarterbacks couldn’t even safely throw the ball out of bounds against him).

Kullen: Charles Woodson is by far my favorite player of all-time. Just growing up and watching highlights and documentaries on him made me appreciate his greatness and how much he did for the program. Woodson was the catalyst for the great defense on the ‘97 National Championship team and went on to be a great NFL player as well. Watching him with Oakland and Green Bay made me wish I was two years older and could have watched him in person wear the winged helmet.

Eric was spot on talking about the swag and finesse he had, which made him such a likeable player. He also always speaks so highly of Michigan and loves it. He will forever be my favorite player.

#Culinary Kickoff Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for #Culinary Kickoff

Jared: I have mixed feelings about Jabrill Peppers. He was certainly electric, but he also never had that defining moment in a big game. Plus he worried me in coverage for someone who was supposedly a Heisman candidate. Feel free to hate me for that one, it’s just how I feel.

Denard would certainly be on my short list. I will also throw Jake Ryan on there. He just had a reckless style of play that was infectious to watch. I have to agree with Eric and Kullen though, Woodson is and always will be the man.

Tanner: I am only 21, so please bear with me. My favorite Wolverine of all-time may just be Denard Robinson. Beat MSU and OSU, which is getting rare around here, the shoelaces, the dreads, that smile. Just a great athlete who was put into an offense that didn’t give him the greatest opportunity to succeed and he still made the most of it. I’ll always remember Denard for those four years he played, as those were also my freshman-senior years of high school. And that’s when I truly started to understand and love the game.

David: Desmond Howard. My grandparents had six season tickets in section 21 and started going to just about all of the games in the early 1990’s. Howard is the first player I remember playing and hearing the crowd getting so excited when they saw him play.

Poll

Who’s your favorite all-time Wolverine football player?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Charles Woodson
    (86 votes)
  • 17%
    Denard Robinson
    (34 votes)
  • 8%
    Desmond Howard
    (17 votes)
  • 3%
    Braylon Edwards
    (7 votes)
  • 6%
    Tom Brady
    (13 votes)
  • 1%
    LaMarr Woodley
    (2 votes)
  • 4%
    Jabrill Peppers
    (8 votes)
  • 3%
    Jim Harbaugh
    (7 votes)
  • 6%
    Jake Long, Mike Hart, or Chad Henne
    (12 votes)
  • 5%
    Other
    (10 votes)
196 votes total Vote Now

Nick: Do you follow any non-football sports? If so, who’s your favorite zero-pigskin, no-pads, not-about-to-score-a-touchdown player of all time?

Andrew: Jalen Rose, and it’s not even close. A 6’8, lefty point guard who played the game with such attitude and ferocity that it made basketball traditionalists uneasy. Rose and the rest of the Fab Five reshaped the collegiate basketball landscape and did it with trash talking, baggy shorts, rap music, and of course, winning.

I gravitate towards Rose as my favorite because of his outspoken nature and success off the court as being one of the few professional basketball analysts who offers valuable insight without constantly reflecting upon his own career. Anytime I see the clip of Rose yelling, “AND ONE, AND ONE” I can imagine Jim Harbaugh smiling over a steak dinner as Rose truly attacked each day/ game with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

Will: I’ll go with Glen Rice. A bonafide pure shooter who helped Michigan rock NCAA basketball with its 1989 title win. He also helped Michigan emerge from being the … wait for it… little brother to the Spartans in basketball. At least for a while. Watching Rice, Sean Higgins, and Rumeal Robinson storm their way through March Madness under interim coach Steve Fisher ranks among my top Michigan memories.

Chris Webber, back in the day
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Mike: I really want to say Sean Hunwick, but I never watched enough hockey to actually justify saying that (technically, he was wearing pads too, I guess). Chris Webber is my favorite non-football Michigan Man of all time; so much so that my NBA rooting interests have been determined by which team he played for (the early 2000’s Kings were the best). The dude could rattle the rim, pass from the elbow, lead the break, and was/is handsome as hell to boot. The Fab Five would never have been the Fab Five without him; in my mind, he’s clearly the best player in program history. Also, I respect any NBA player that forces his way out of Don Nelson’s clutches.

Eric: Gary Grant (tied with Jalen on my list, but Andrew grabbed him already). The General brought Michigan hoops back to prominence in the 80’s, along with Antoine “The Judge” Joubert and Roy Tarpley. Grant ran that team from his freshman year (unusual back then), had an intensity that lit up Crisler and was an absolute terror on the defensive end. All time Michigan leader in steals and assists. NBA career saddled by having to play for the Clippers.

Kullen: This is a tough one because I follow and love Michigan basketball and hockey almost as much as football. For basketball, I have to say Glen Rice just because of how dominant he was and how he led the Wolverines during that magical run in ‘89. There are also rumors he hooked up with Sarah Palin that year when she was a reporter in Alaska, so that makes him truly a legend.

On the ice, T.J. Hensick was my favorite growing up because of how electric he was for the Michigan hockey team. The guy could score at will and he was the face of the program when I first really started getting into U-M hockey.

Poll

Who’s your favorite all-time Wolverine basketball player?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Jalen Rose
    (20 votes)
  • 18%
    Glen Rice
    (24 votes)
  • 18%
    Chris Webber
    (25 votes)
  • 25%
    Trey Burke
    (34 votes)
  • 9%
    Nik Stauskas
    (13 votes)
  • 3%
    Mitch McGary
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Glen Robinson III
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Caris LeVert
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Derrick Walton, Jr.
    (2 votes)
  • 7%
    Other
    (10 votes)
132 votes total Vote Now

Jared: You guys are turning back the clock for some of these picks. I will go with a more recent baller and say Trey Burke. He was never the most athletic guy on the court, but his shot against Kansas will go down in history as one of my favorite Michigan moments.

Derrick Walton is not far behind him as well for all of the same reasons (except his shot didn’t drop). I really liked the way those guys were able to put the entire team on their back and seemingly will them to victory.

Tanner: It has to be Trey Burke. Trey was so smooth and cool on the court. He hit those pick and pop 15 footers like it was nothing and was the catalyst of one of the best Michigan seasons I have ever seen in any sport. Him hitting that shot allowed me to trash-talk all of my friends who hit me up with 7 minutes left in the Kansas game, and for that I will always be grateful.

David: I have to go with a different approach because I played on scholarship in Division 1 golf at Xavier University.

My pick is a guy that now works behind the scenes for the M Club, Andy Matthews. He became the first ever golfer in program history to win the Big Ten Freshman Player of the Year honors for his play during the 1998-1999 season. He was also selected by his teammates as their captain during his junior and senior seasons.

He finished his Michigan career as a unanimous All-Big Ten Team selection and played in every golf tournament during his four years on the team. Andy is a good friend of mine who I usually attend football games with and currently is the Vice President of the M Club.

Michigan Wolverines v Ohio State Buckeyes Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Nick: And who’s your favorite Michigan coach? I think this may be an easy one.

Andrew: When I was 15 years-old, I read Mitch Albom’s and Bo Schembechler’s book, Bo: Life, Laughs, and Lessons of a College Football Legend and everything changed for me. I say I became a Michigan fan watching Chris Perry torch Ohio State in 2003, but I became a devoted and loving lunatic after I read this book.

The respect for history, competitive drive, innovative strategies, humor infused monologues, and the integrity Bo helped each player cultivate completely inundated me in a maize and blue trance. My life changed after reading this book and learning about life wisdom from a coach who I never even got to watch on television. I vehemently competed, I demanded more from myself, and I always carried myself as a man of higher character after Bo was through with me. I know I am far from alone in feeling this impact and no other coach (not even King/ Lord/ Pope/ Savior/ Harbaugh) will ever impact my life in the way Bo did. Thanks, Coach; rest in peace.

Will: Lloyd Carr, and not just because Michigan won a national title under him. Schembechler built a culture and legacy from which Moeller, Carr and Harbaugh all benefitted (and which Rich Rod did his best to derail). But I think Carr had a better football mind and I just loved the way he carried himself. Remember when he refused to campaign for a rematch and national title shot against the Buckeyes (which Florida’s Urban Meyer was more than happy to do)? We could have all done without the Appalachian State embarrassment, but Carr led that same team to a convincing win over Meyer’s and Tim Tebow’s Gators in the Capital One Bowl. Carr had everything one would want in a Michigan man.

Mike: Recent circumstances notwithstanding, it has to be Red. Not only did he come back to Michigan (ahem), but he did so in even more unlikely circumstances than Jim Harbaugh.

It was time to go, for sure, but he made Michigan hockey everything it possibly could be, which is saying something. Michiganders and everyone else tend to think of the upper midwest as a humble, conservative place. Thus, we’re happy to play defense and hope for a power play goal here and there to wrap up a well fought game, or we’re happy with the whole three yards and a cloud of dust myth, but that perception doesn’t really match reality. Red’s philosophy, which is basically ‘out of constant attack comes constant success,’ is so refreshing and demographic-accurate.

Kullen: I always loved Steve Fisher because of how nice a guy he was and just how he rallied the Wolverines to the championship. No coach has ever taken over a team before the playoffs and accomplished what he did. Bo obviously has to be up there as well.

But, my favorite is no doubt Jim Harbaugh. The way he has rejuvenated the program and made it relevant again has us all very excited for the future. His ability to make Michigan “cool” again can’t be understated and in his second year we were one bad spot away from the playoff. Michigan football will be back on top very soon with him at the helm.

Jared: Really, nobody is going to bring up Rich Rod!? I am taken aback.

All kidding aside, I think it has to be Bo. I was not old enough to appreciate the 10 year war, but I can appreciate what it meant to the fans and what it did for the program. He crafted an identity for the program that is still profound after all of these years. I remember when he passed away before the ‘06 game how upset I was, despite the fact I never actually watched a Schembechler-coached team.

Tanner: Has to be Bo. I remember being 12 years old and feeling so terrible that Bo had passed. All I have to go off are stories and books and old videos, but I have gotten to see just how awesome of a football coach and person he was. I’m never one of those “I was born in the wrong generation! Ugh!” millennials, but when it comes to Michigan football I almost feel that way because I love the way Bo’s teams ran the ball and blocked back in the 70s and 80s. A true Michigan legend.

David: The all time favorite coach has to be Bo. His impact on the football program and school will be impossible to beat. You still see and hear his famous statements, “The Team. The Team. The Team.” and “Those Who Stay Will Be Champions.” He is also a huge reason Jim Harbaugh is who he is today and he's brought up in press conferences that he's reminded daily about what he did for him. Heck...Bo even has his own clothing line and store in Ann Arbor.

Poll

Who's your favorite all-time Wolverine head coach?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Bo Schembechler
    (52 votes)
  • 29%
    Jim Harbaugh
    (34 votes)
  • 2%
    Red Berenson
    (3 votes)
  • 4%
    Steve Fisher
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    John Beilein
    (3 votes)
  • 12%
    Lloyd Carr
    (15 votes)
  • 1%
    Carol Hutchins
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Other
    (2 votes)
116 votes total Vote Now