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Ernest Shazor gave Michigan a physical presence at strong safety.

Ernest Shazor gave Michigan a physical presence at strong safety.

With Michigan’s 2009 season wrapped up, and the decade coming to a close, I thought I would steal an idea from Dr. Saturday and have my readers vote on a Team of the Decade. So, I’ve come up with a list of nominees for every position, and I’ll be posting two position groups every day for the next week, leaving it up to you to vote for who should make the team. At the end of the month, I’ll tally up the votes and reveal the team of the decade. Next up are the safeties:

This is going to be the last team of the decade post that I open up to a vote (I’m just going to pick the special teams, since I think the choices are rather obvious — Rivas, Mesko, Breaston), and also my last post before I take a break for the holidays. The voting will stay open until some undetermined time after New Year’s, and I’ll have a big summary post that includes all the polls to make voting a little easier. Without further ado, here are the safety nominees:

Cato June (1999-2002): June, a highly-coveted recruit who chose Charles Woodson’s No. 2 jersey upon enrolling at Michigan, managed to put together a very solid collegiate career despite being plagued by injuries. As a redshirt freshman, he appeared in all 12 games, starting the final four at free safety, and recorded 27 tackles and an interception. In the summer before his redshirt sophomore season, June tore his ACL, which caused him to miss the entirety of the 2000 season. He came back as a junior, starting 11 games between both safety spots and tallying 58 tackles (five for loss), four pass breakups, and two interceptions. As a senior, June started 11 of the team’s 13 games at strong safety, but was forced to miss the greater part of three games after suffering a concussion in a frightening collision against Iowa. He still managed to record 53 tackles (four for loss) and three pass breakups, and was named All-Big Ten honorable mention. June became the first Michigan safety to be drafted since Corwin Brown in 1993 when he was chosen by Indianapolis in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL Draft.

Ernest Shazor (2002-2004): Shazor, another blue-chip recruit out of Detroit, was a tremendous physical presence at strong safety for Michigan. In his redshirt freshman year, he appeared in 12 games as a reserve, tallying 25 tackles and four pass breakups. He took over as the Wolverines’ strong safety the next season, starting Michigan’s final 11 games and recording 57 tackles (eight for loss), three pass breakups, and two interceptions, and was named second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches. His best year came as a junior, when Shazor earned first-team All-American honors and was a finalist for the Thorpe Award with 84 tackles (10 for loss), two pass breakups, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions, and a touchdown. Shazor also delivered one of the most memorable hits in school history, sealing a 16-14 victory over 12th-ranked Purdue by forcing a fumble on the Boilermakers’ final possession:

Shazor would declare for the NFL Draft after his junior season, but went undrafted and did not catch on after a tryout with the Arizona Cardinals.

Brandent Englemon (2004-2007): Unlike June and Shazor, Englemon was a relative unknown as a high school recruit, coming into Michigan as just a two-star prospect. After spending his freshman season as a reserve, Englemon took over Shazor’s vacated strong safety spot in 2005, making 42 tackles. Englemon shifted over to free safety as a junior, recording 29 tackles while splitting time with Ryan Mundy. He earned the permanent starting role at free safety in 2007, and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention with an 86-tackle, three-interception performance in his senior season.

Jamar Adams (2004-2007): After spending most of his freshman year on special teams, Adams started eight games between the two safety positions as as sophomore, making 27 tackles. As a junior, Adams started 12 games at strong safety, recording 47 tackles (three for loss), six pass breakups, and an interception en route to being named second team All-Big Ten. In his senior season, Adams started all 13 games at strong safety, tallying 92 tackles (2.5 for loss), 10 pass breakups, and three interceptions, again earning second-team all-conference honors. Against Penn State, Adams tied the second-best single-game mark in school history with five pass breakups. He currently sits 12th on the career list with 22 pass breakups.

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I hope everyone has a safe and happy holidays. May 2010 be a much better year for Michigan sports than 2009 was.

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Well, this is certainly interesting:

Hopson
Hopson, of course, is the guy responsible for coaching Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton, who both had very disappointing performances in their junior seasons in 2009. He was also the guy responsible for securing the commitments of Pearlie Graves and DeQuinta Jones, two much-needed class of 2009 defensive tackles who were last-minute decommits (to Texas Tech and Arkansas, no less).

Now, commence celebrating and speculation about a possible hire of Corwin Brown, the former Wolverine standout and Notre Dame defensive coordinator/super-recruiter who was not retained by Brian Kelly. Best of luck to Hopson at his new job — it will be very interesting to see (1) who Michigan hires to replace him and (2) if there is a dramatic improvement in linebacker play in his absence.

Leon Hall is Michigan's all-time leader in pass breakups.

Leon Hall is Michigan's all-time leader in pass breakups.

With Michigan’s 2009 season wrapped up, and the decade coming to a close, I thought I would steal an idea from Dr. Saturday and have my readers vote on a Team of the Decade. So, I’ve come up with a list of nominees for every position, and I’ll be posting two position groups every day for the next week, leaving it up to you to vote for who should make the team. At the end of the month, I’ll tally up the votes and reveal the team of the decade. Next up are the cornerbacks:

Michigan has had a long-standing tradition of having at least one outstanding cornerback on the roster, and the 2000s have been no different. There’s not many nominees at the position, but it’s tough to question the quality of the guys listed below.

Marlin Jackson (2001-2004): Yup, I’m being lazy again. A little help, Bentley?

A native of Sharon, Pa., Marlin Jackson earned first-team All-America honors from College Football News as a sophomore. Jackson has accumulated 98 tackles, six tackles for loss, one sack, six interceptions and one fumble recovery in 24 career games at U-M. His 25 career pass break-ups places him fifth on Michigan’s all-time list. He was named to the Associated Press All-America second team and the Sporting News third team during his sophomore campaign. An All-Big Ten selection in 2002, Jackson set single game (six) and single season (18) pass break-up records and ranked sixth on the team with 51 tackles. Jackson earned Freshman All-America first team honors from the Sporting News after collecting 47 tackles, seven pass break-ups and three interceptions in 2001.

After switching to the safety position for his junior season, Jackson returned to the cornerback spot in 2004 and turned in another all-American performance. He earned first-team honors on the American Football Writers Association squad. A co-captain for the Wolverines, Jackson earned All-Big Ten first team honors from the coaches and media in 2004. Teams threw away from Jackson almost 87 percent of the time during the regular season. He  contributed 38 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, one interception and four pass breakups this year. Jackson is the team’s active career leader in tackles (186) and pass breakups (34), with his PBU total ranking second all-time on Michigan’s career list.

Jackson’s records for pass breakups in a single-game (six, against Washington in 2002) and season (18, 2002, now tied with Leon Hall’s 2006 season) still stand, and his career total (34) now ranks third all-time at Michigan behind Leon Hall and Todd Howard.

Leon Hall (2003-2006): Hall made an immediate impact upon reaching Ann Arbor, playing in all 13 games as a freshman and finishing the season with 26 tackles and three interceptions, earning first-team freshman All-America honors. As a sophomore, with Jackson sliding over to safety, Hall started nine games at corner, tallying 48 tackles, two interceptions, and breaking up ten passes. Hall took over the No. 1 cornerback spot as a junior, earning All-Big Ten second-team honors with 61 tackles and four interceptions. His finest year came as a senior, when Hall tied Jackson’s school record for pass breakups (18), recorded 45 tackles and three interceptions, was a unanimous choice for first-team All-Big Ten, and was named an AFCA first-team All-American. Hall holds the school record for pass breakups (43), and is tied for fourth with 12 career interceptions.

Donovan Warren (2007-2009): Donovan Warren came to Michigan as a five-star recruit, and was heralded as the next great Michigan corner after Ty Law, Charles Woodson, Jackson, and Hall. Although a combination of injuries, poor overall defenses, and unfair hype led to him not living up to the very lofty expectations, Warren still had a very solid career at Michigan. Warren started 11 games as a true freshman, recording 52 tackles, five pass breakups and an interception, and was named Big Ten Defensive Freshman of the Year by the Sporting News. As a sophomore, Warren battled through injuries, but still managed to record 52 tackles, five pass breakups and an interception as he took over No. 1 corner duties. In his junior (and final) season, Warren put it all together, recording 66 tackles, seven pass breakups, and four interceptions, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media and second-team all-conference from the coaches before announcing his intention to enter the NFL Draft. Warren’s 17 career pass breakups leaves him 17th on Michigan’s all-time list.

Career Stats:

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Shawn Crable always found a way into opponents' backfields in 2007, setting the school record for TFLs.

Shawn Crable always found a way into opponents' backfields in 2007, setting the single-season school record for tackles for loss.

With Michigan’s 2009 season wrapped up, and the decade coming to a close, I thought I would steal an idea from Dr. Saturday and have my readers vote on a Team of the Decade. So, I’ve come up with a list of nominees for every position, and I’ll be posting two position groups every day for the next week, leaving it up to you to vote for who should make the team. At the end of the month, I’ll tally up the votes and reveal the team of the decade. Next up are the linebackers:

[A quick note: Michigan’s defensive statistics, as kept in their database, are a bit wacky and not always consistent with their player bios or the actual team record book. The career stats are based off of the database, while I’ll do my best to double-check the season stats against the record book and player bios. Just keep that in mind if the numbers don’t add up or if you’ve seen a different figure.]

Due to blogger laziness and an attempt to keep this whole thing moving, I’m lumping in all the linebackers together. Lame, I know. Michigan has seen several quality linebackers come through Ann Arbor in the last decade, especially on the standout 2006 squad. Let’s take a look at the nominees:

Larry Foote (1998-2001): Foote wasn’t able to crack the starting lineup at Michigan until his junior season, but once he did, he became a force for the Wolverines. As a junior, he recorded 84 tackles (10 for loss), broke up seven passes, and recorded two interceptions en route to being named first-team All-Big Ten. He topped those numbers in his senior campaign, tallying 82 tackles, six sacks, seven pass breakups, and tying Mark Messner for the (then-) school record in tackles for loss with 26. Foote was again named first-team all-conference, won the Roger Zatkoff Award as the team’s most outstanding linebacker, and was named first-team All-America by Football News. Foote’s 44 career tackles for loss places him seventh in school history.

Victor Hobson (1999-2002): Hobson started 39 of his 49 career games with the Wolverines, and a consistent all-conference performer at outside linebacker in his final three seasons. After getting spot duty as a freshman, Hobson started ten games as a sophomore, amassing 58 tackles (12 for loss) and three sacks to earn All-Big Ten honorable mention and the Zatkoff Award as Michigan’s most outstanding linebacker. In his junior season, Hobson tallied 80 tackles (11 for loss) and five sacks and was named second-team All-Big Ten. As a senior, Hobson had his finest season, recording 99 tackles (13 for loss) and 5.5 sacks and earning first-team all-conference honors and another Zatkoff Award. Hobson’s 47 career tackles for loss places him fifth on Michigan’s all-time list.

Lawrence Reid (2002-2004): Although a nerve problem cut his career short after his junior season, Lawrence Reid made quite an impact while he was able to play for Michigan. After playing sparingly as a freshman, Reid recorded 82 tackles (five for loss) as in 2003, earning All-Big Ten honorable mention and the Zatkoff Award as the team’s best linebacker. Then, despite playing through pain through much of the season, Reid recorded 70 tackles (12 for loss), three sacks, and an interception in his junior season before his playing career came to an end.

David Harris (2003-2006): Harris went from little-used backup in his first two seasons to one of the finest linebackers in the country in his career at Michigan. His career nearly ended when he suffered a knee injury as a true freshman which kept him sidelined for nearly two seasons. After recording ten tackles as a redshirt sophomore, Harris had a breakout year in 2005, leading the team with 88 tackles and earning the Zatkoff Award. In 2006, Harris was the heart of one of the greatest defenses in school history, tallying 96 tackles (16 for loss), three sacks, and an interception, being named first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches (the media, well, were idiots), taking home another Zatkoff Award, sharing team MVP with Mike Hart, and earning second-team All-America honors from the AP, Sports Illustrated, and Rivals.com.

Prescott Burgess (2003-2006): Burgess, a blue-chip safety recruit coming out of high school, grew into the outside linebacker position and earned a starting role by his junior season. As a junior, Burgess had his best season statistically, recording 81 tackles (four for loss), two interceptions, and breaking up five passes, and he was named all-conference honorable mention. Burgess teamed with David Harris and Shawn Crable to form Michigan’s fearsome linebacker corps in 2006, tallying 48 tackles (six for loss), three sacks, and two huge interceptions in Michigan’s 47-21 shellacking of then-No. 2 Notre Dame, returning one for a touchdown. He was again named All-Big Ten honorable mention.

Shawn Crable (2004-2007): Crable played sparingly in his first two seasons before earning a starting role on the 2006 defense, recording 11 tackles for loss and six sacks among 37 total tackles and earning second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches. However, it was Crable’s senior season that earned him a spot on this list. In 2007, he tallied 90 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles while setting a single-season school record with 28.5 tackles for loss. Crable was again named second-team all-conference, and also earned Walter Camp second-team All-America honors while inexplicably losing the Zatkoff Award to Chris Graham. Crable’s 43 career tackles for loss places him eighth in school history.

Career Stats:

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LaMarr Woodley 2.0

Brandon Graham is second in school history with 29.5 career sacks.

With Michigan’s 2009 season wrapped up, and the decade coming to a close, I thought I would steal an idea from Dr. Saturday and have my readers vote on a Team of the Decade. So, I’ve come up with a list of nominees for every position, and I’ll be posting two position groups every day for the next week, leaving it up to you to vote for who should make the team. At the end of the month, I’ll tally up the votes and reveal the team of the decade. Next up are the defensive ends:

Normally, I’m all for the democratic process. There are, however, extenuating circumstances that can lead to me changing my mind. This is one of those times. Allow me to introduce you to your two defensive ends on the Team of the Decade. You won’t be mad, I promise.

LaMarr Woodley (2003-2006): Remember, children, guns don’t kill people — LaMarr Woodley kills people. Woodley, a coveted recruit from Saginaw, saw the field as a freshman before breaking out in his sophomore season, recording 70 tackles (16 for loss) and four sacks as an outside linebacker. As a rush linebacker in 2005, he added 12 more TFLs and six more sacks before moving full-time to defensive end in 2006. His senior season was his finest, as he tied the school single-season record with 12 sacks and 36 tackles (15 for loss), four forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries. Woodley was named first-team All-America for his performance, and took home both the Ted Hendricks Award (best defensive end in the country) and Lombardi Award (best lineman, offensive or defensive, in the country) for his efforts. Woodley is third in school history in tackles for loss and tied for fourth in career sacks.

Brandon Graham (2006-2009): The heart and soul of the past two Michigan football teams (as well as the reigning two-time team MVP), Graham fought through constant double-teams to put up some of the finest defensive numbers in school history. After playing sparingly as a freshman, Graham burst onto the scene as a sophomore, tallying 9.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. In 2008, Graham took over as the focal point of Michigan’s defense, recording 46 tackles, leading the Big Ten with 20 tackles for loss, and notching ten sacks en route to being named second-team All-Big Ten and SI All-America honorable mention. His senior season was even more impressive, as Graham led the nation (through the end of the regular season) in tackles for loss with an astounding 26 among his 64 total tackles, adding 10.5 sacks and being named the Big Ten co-MVP, a Hendricks Award finalist, first-team All-Big Ten, and first-team All-American by Rivals.com and Scout.com. Graham is second in Michigan history in tackles for loss and career sacks.

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This picture will never, ever get old.

This picture will never, ever get old.

With Michigan’s 2009 season wrapped up, and the decade coming to a close, I thought I would steal an idea from Dr. Saturday and have my readers vote on a Team of the Decade. So, I’ve come up with a list of nominees for every position, and I’ll be posting two position groups every day for the next week, leaving it up to you to vote for who should make the team. At the end of the month, I’ll tally up the votes and reveal the team of the decade. Next up are the defensive tackles:

Michigan spent much of the decade switching between a 4-3 and a 3-4 look, and in the early part of the 2000s had a hard time finding a quality successor to All-American nose tackle Rob Renes. They would find worthy DTs in the latter part of the decade — let’s take a look at the nominees:

Gabe Watson (2002-2005): Watson was a space-eating behemoth (listed at 6-4 and anywhere between 331 and 339 pounds during his career) who could move like a much smaller man, often penetrating into the backfield despite facing double-teams. He played sparingly in his first two seasons before breaking out as a junior, tallying 37 tackles (six for loss) and two sacks and earning first-team All-Big Ten honors. In his senior season, Watson put up nearly identical numbers, with 40 tackles (six for loss) and two sacks, and again was named first-team all-conference. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft by Arizona.

Alan Branch (2004-2006): Branch played both DE and DT in his Michigan career, but his best games came as a tackle. At 6-6, 331, he was a more athletic player than Watson, able to make a play in the backfield or chase a runner down past the line of scrimmage. After spending his freshman year as a backup, Branch split time between end and tackle in 2005, totaling 34 tackles (four for loss) with 2.5 sacks and earning the Dick Katcher Award as Michigan’s best defensive lineman. With the departure of Watson, Branch moved full-time to tackle in 2006, and helped anchor one of the greatest defenses in school history, tallying 25 tackles (five for loss), two sacks, an interception (against Ohio State, no less), and one bone-crushing hit on Anthony Morelli. He was a consensus All-Big Ten first-teamer, and was drafted with the first pick of the second round by Arizona in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Terrance Taylor (2005-2008): After appearing in ten games (but only recording one tackle) as a freshman, Taylor earned a spot in the starting lineup alongside Branch in 2006, making 23 tackles (five for loss) and one sack. As a junior, he had his best season statistically, tallying 55 tackles (8.5 for loss) and 3.5 sacks, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. Taylor’s senior year was a bit of a disappointment (as was the 2008 season as a whole), as he finished with 35 tackles (four for loss) and just 1.5 sacks. He was picked in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft by Indianapolis.

Will Johnson (2005-2008): Johnson spent his first two seasons as a backup before breaking into the starting lineup alongside Taylor in 2007. His junior season was his best, as he recorded 40 tackles (2.5 for loss) and 0.5 sacks and earned the Katcher Award as the team’s best defensive lineman. Johnson followed up that performance with 29 tackles (three for loss) and two sacks as a senior in 2008.

Career Stats:

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