When Derrick Green selected Michigan last Saturday, he became the highest-ranked running back (No. 8 nationally) to ever choose the Wolverines, and the 17th top-20 player the Maize and Blue have ever landed. We take a look at how the first 16 fared.
Editor's Note: Position and regional rankings go back as far as The Wolverine magazine's inception in 1989, however, top-100 lists nationally began only in 1997.
After a back-and-forth with Tom Brady in 1998 and 1999, Henson became the full-time starter in 2000, throwing for 2,146 yards with 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions in one of the most efficient single-season campaigns by a U-M quarterback in school history. He departed with a year of eligibility remaining, however, to pursue a future in baseball, leaving behind the potential to go down as one of Michigan's best signal-callers ever.
A bit of a malcontent, Mallett started three games in the absence of an injured Chad Henne, winning all three, while appearing in 10 overall. Mallett completed 43.3 percent of his 141 attempts for 892 yards with seven TDs and five interceptions. He would transfer with the arrival of Rich Rodriguez, and would go on to star for two seasons at Arkansas, throwing for 7,496 yards and 62 touchdowns with 19 interceptions in leading the Razorbacks to an 18-8 record.
After redshirting in 2001 and making a name for himself on special teams in 2002, Shazor moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and racked up eight tackles for loss among 57 total stops. A ferocious hitter at his best the closer he was to the line of scrimmage, Shazor had 84 tackles, including 10 TFL, in 2004 in earning All-American first-team honors. However, he had also lost favor with the coaches, his mental lapses (especially in coverage) becoming infamous.
Initially ranked a safety, Burgess grew into a linebacker and began assuming a greater role late in his sophomore campaign, experiencing a breakthrough effort in the 2005 Rose Bowl opposite Texas. Burgess had a very good junior season, tallying 81 tackles and five pass breakups but he truly arrived in 2006, returning one of two interceptions against Notre Dame for a touchdown. One of the most capable weakside LBs of that era, Burgess saw his senior year unfortunately interrupted by injury.
One of the most electric skill players in school history, Terrell had 14 catches as a rookie and turned in his first 1,000-yard season in 1999, becoming only the second sophomore at Michigan to do so (Desmond Howard 1990) as he finished with 71 grabs and seven scores. He earned All-American honors as a junior after going for 67 grabs, 1,130 yards and 14 touchdowns -- a TD total that ranks third all time in U-M's single-season annals.
It has been 15 years since Michigan landed the nation's top running back, while Green is the highest-ranked ball carrier the Wolverines will have ever signed. He will step into a situation without a returning starter and no proven back (expecting senior Fitz Toussaint to be slow returning from injury). Green has the size, the speed, and the mentality to be a No. 1 back immediately, and could become just the fourth five-star RB nationally since 2008 to rush for 1,000 yards as a freshman.
Starting once and appearing in nine games as a rookie, Fargas largely struggled to instantly fulfill his hype, though he did rush for 120 yards on 31 carries in the slop to help U-M best Northwestern 12-6. Fargas would suffer a gruesome leg injury late in his freshman campaign and missed the entire 1999 campaign while rehabbing. He had just 18 carries in 2000 and transferred to Southern Cal, rushing for 751 yards in his final season. He would play in the NFL after going in the third round to the Oakland Raiders.
One of two corners to see the field for the national champion Wolverines in 1997 (Will Peterson), Whitley took over as a starting cornerback as a sophomore and would start 33 games in his career. Whitley was a solid coverman that sits fifth all time at U-M in pass breakups with 28, and was a strong overall player, tallying 187 tackles and five sacks. He had the unfortunate timing of playing corner so soon after Charles Woodson departed, and he struggled to live up to his own potential.
Perhaps the most apt comparison to Green, Thomas was a 6-2, 225-pound between-the-tackles runner with underrated speed. He contributed as a freshman with 549 yards and five touchdowns, and improved his numbers every year -- gaining 893 yards and scoring 15 TDs as a sophomore and then 1,297 and 17 as a junior, and finally 1,733 yards rushing and 18 scores as a senior. Thomas still ranks second all time in rushing (4,472 yards) and first in touchdowns (55).
Playing second fiddle to Terrell for both the 1999 and 2000 campaigns, Walker still managed to accrue 86 catches, 1,095 yards and six touchdowns during his sophomore and junior seasons. In 2001, with Terrell in the NFL, Walker assumed the No. 1 mantle and set a then single-season mark with 86 receptions, good for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. He wasn't as flashy as his classmate, but he made a number of highlight-reel grabs and his overall success is, perhaps, undervalued.
The first quarterback in Big Ten history to lead his team to the Rose Bowl as a true freshman, Henne seized an opportunity with an injury to Matt Gutierrez and never relinquished his hold on the starting job, commanding the post for four seasons. He holds almost every career passing record at Michigan, including yards (9,715) and touchdowns (87). Henne went 1-3 in bowl games and was 0-4 against Ohio State, however, with the two marks casting a pall over his incredible tenure.
The highest-ranked defensive lineman the Maize and Blue have ever signed, Pipkins appeared in all 13 Michigan games this past fall, recording seven tackles in a reserve role. The 6-3, 340-pounder impressed the Michigan coaches with his commitment, and he possesses the potential to be a dominant run stuffer and block occupier in 2013. Pipkins will receive the opportunity to take over for Will Campbell at defensive tackle (or nose), likely starting next to fifth-year senior Quinton Washington on the inside.
Woodley was originally a linebacker, but he moved to defensive end as a freshman and contributed four tackles for loss and two sacks. Woodley moved back to rush linebacker in 2004 and accumulated 16 tackles for loss and 70 stops. He moved back to defensive end in a 4-3 in 2005 and emerged one of the game's top defensive players (winning the Hendricks Award and earning All-American honors) in 2006 after tying the U-M single-season record with 12 QB takedowns.
Like Woodley, Graham was a high school linebacker that was far too big to play the position in college. After seeing the field a little bit here and there as a freshman, Graham arrived on the scene in 2007, sacking the QB 8.5 times. He would record 10 sacks and 20 TFL in 2008, and 10.5 sacks and a NCAA-leading 26.0 tackles for loss in 2009 as he was named the Big Ten Most Valuable Player. Graham is the only player in school history to have eight or more sacks in three consecutive seasons.
The tallest defensive lineman in program history, standing tall at 6-8 (284 pounds), Massey was a three-year starter for the Wolverines, totaling 10 sacks among 14 tackles for loss and 96 total tackles in his career. Carrying with him enormous (no pun intended) hype, Massey became a punching bag for fans and the media, who so often criticized his lack of production and strength up front without ever acknowledging the effort and passion for which he played the game.
With Fargas transferring, fans pinned their hope on Baraka becoming the dominant No. 1 tailback his predecessor never was, however, Baraka could not stay out of trouble. He arrived in Ann Arbor with a list of off-field transgressions that almost ended his career before it began, and was then gone for good after 2002 spring practice. He played one season at Joliet Junior College in 2003, rushing for 409 yards and seven TDs, and transferred to Findlay University but never suited up. His whereabouts today are a mystery.
The first Wolverine to start at cornerback in his true freshman season since Woodson, Jackson was a Freshman All-American, and a true All-American as a sophomore after setting a Michigan single-season record with 18 pass breakups. He moved to safety in 2003, but after an unsuccessful campaign moved back to corner as a senior, where he again picked up first-team All-American honors. He is considered one of U-M's three-best corners in the past 25 years (Woodson, Law).