We are through five seasons of the Jim Harbaugh era of Michigan Football and despite a lack of hardware in the trophy room, the program has had no shortage of talent walking through the door each year. This week at Maize n Brew, we are taking a look at the 50 best players under Harbaugh at Michigan so far.
I just want to conclude this exercise by saying I appreciate your feedback on this vague list without much of a criteria that I did just to pass the time. It was fluid in some spots, but I like where we are at to end the week. And the great part about it is we have a comments section for you to throw verbal jabs at me if you think it stinks, so that’s fun, too!
Here we go!
10. Rashan Gary, defensive linemen (2016-18)
Gary never quite became the No. 1 player in the country that he was coming out of high school, but was still a tremendous talent up front for the Wolverines. He was a two-time All-Big Ten honoree in 2017-18 made made 21 starts in his career appearing in 34 career games. Fans often complained about a lack of production (24 tackles for loss, 10.5 career sacks), but he made a lot of plays up front that do not show up on a stat sheet and often commanded double and triple teams. He was a disruptive player and someone that needed to be accounted for in other team’s gameplans.
9. Karan Higdon, running back (2015-18)
Higdon at one point was seen as the consolation prize to not landing Mike Weber on the recruiting trail, but he left college as a more accomplished back and a better player. Higdon was the team’s 2017 Offensive Player of the Year and a semifinalist for the Doak Walker and Maxwell Awards in 2018, as well as earning first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and media. He ran the ball 511 times for 2,622 yards in his career and found the endzone 27 times.
8. Cesar Ruiz, center (2017-19)
Ruiz, who was a four-star prospect and the nation’s top center coming out of high school in the 2017 class, appeared in 36 games in Ann Arbor and made 31 starts (26 at center, five at right guard). He entered the draft after his junior season and was a two-time All-Big Ten selection and Pro Football Focus had him graded as the best pass-blocking center in the nation last year.
7. Ben Bredeson, guard (2016-19)
Bredeson, a four-star recruit coming out of high school in the 2016 class, was an All-American this past season (second team) and a three-time All-Big Ten honoree. He had four years of game experience at Michigan after playing in 50 career games with 46 of them coming at left guard as a starter. He was also a two-time captain of the team.
6. Chase Winovich, defensive end (2015-18)
Winovich bounced around a bit at other positions before the staff settled on him as a defensive end and boy, were they ever rewarded for it. Winovich played in 45 career games with 26 starts at Michigan and had 185 tackles, 45 tackles for loss, 18 sacks and three forced fumbles in his career. His final season in Ann Arbor saw him become the heartbeat of the defense and ended with AP All-American third team honors, as well as first-team All-Big Ten honors in both 2017 and 2018.
5. Maurice Hurst, defensive tackle (2013-17)
Hurst was a consensus first team All-American selection in 2017, which capped off a career that saw him as a bit of a late bloomer. He only made 17 starts at defensive tackle in his career in 46 games, but was one of the most disruptive and explosive defensive linemen we have seen wear a Michigan uniform. Hurst had 134 tackles, 33 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, two passes defended and a blocked field goal in his career. He was the team’s MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in that 2017 season.
4. Jake Butt, tight end (2013-16)
Butt was a four-year contributor for the Wolverines at tight end and made 37 starts in 49 games. He holds the program record for most receptions (138) and yards (1,646) and was a two-time All-American on Sports Illustrated’s list. Butt left the program as one of only six tight ends to reach 1,000 career receiving yards and had at least one catch in 36 of the final 40 games he played as a Wolverine. He was as sure-handed and reliable as it gets, yet somehow always found himself open.
3. Jourdan Lewis, cornerback (2013-16)
We are into what I would consider the “Mt. Rushmore” tier of Harbaugh players. Lewis made 30 starts at cornerback in 48 games played and left the program as the school’s all-time leader in career passes broken up with 45. The two-time All American in 2015-16 shut down an entire side of the field when he was out there, but still flashed playmaking ability that had the potential to change games (or in the case of the Wisconsin win in 2016, seal victories). Lewis was as good as it can get at the cornerback position and a special player to watch in his final two seasons in college.
2. Jabrill Peppers, linebacker/defensive back/Swiss Army knife (2014-16)
A two-time All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist in 2016, Peppers deserves more respect among Michigan fans than what he gets. Peppers had 125 total tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, one interception, one pass defended and one forced fumble in his Michigan career. He also received some run on offense, rushing for 239 career years and five touchdowns with 10 receptions for 82 yards, as well. None of his numbers particularly pop off of the sheet, but he was a special athlete and was asked to do so many things and mostly did them well. Players like Peppers do not grow on trees and it might be awhile before we see something like what he did again at Michigan.
1. Devin Bush, linebacker (2016-18)
The title of best player of the Harbaugh era goes to Bush, who was a two-time All-American with accolades from a number of outlets in his final two seasons in a Michigan uniform. Bush played in 39 games in his career, 32 of them coming at linebacker with 25 starts to his name. Bush was named a captain for the 2018 season and finished his time in Maize and Blue with 194 total tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, one interception and 15 passes defended.