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August 11, 2013Since the final play of the Wolverines' Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina, Michigan coaches, players and fans alike have eagerly awaited the start of the 2013 season - and another chance to win the program's first Big Ten Championship since 2004.
Now, with the calendar turning over to August, the season is just around the corner.
To count down to the season, The Wolverine is naming the best player to ever wear each jersey number, No. 99 to No. 1.
We'll highlight 3-5 jerseys a day, all the way to the morning of Aug. 31, the day the Wolverines finally kick off the season at The Big House against Central Michigan.
Joe Cocozzo, offensive guard (1989-92)
I was tempted to put Mike Martin here, considering his truly dominant senior year in which he tallied 64 tackles and was a major catalyst in the transition to the Brady Hoke-era defense.
But Cocozzo was one of the best guards in recent memory, so he gets the slight nod. Cocozzo was a three-year starter at right guard, opening big holes for a running game that averaged an impressive 254.8 rushing yards per game during his tenure as a starter.
The Wolverines compiled a 28-3-3 record, won at least a share of the Big Ten championship in each season, went to two Rose Bowls and went undefeated in 1992 (9-0-3 record) with a 38-31 win over Washington in the Rose Bowl.
Cocozzo, who started 36 games, was a first-team All-American performer as a senior, and he was part of the offensive line that was collectively named MVP of the 1991 Gator Bowl.
John Vitale, center (1985-88)
There aren't many offensive linemen talented enough to become four-year starters. Even rarer are the guys who are four-year starters and switched positions midway through his career.
Vitale cracked the starting lineup as a rookie at left guard, starting the last nine games of the 1985 season.
As a sophomore, he jumped to center, where he excelled - and spent the remainder of his career, racking up 37 starts in the middle.
As a center, Vitale piloted an offensive line that led the way for U-M running backs to average 237.6 rushing yards per game.
During Vitale's four years as a starter, the Wolverines 38-9-2 record, played in two Rose Bowls and beat Ohio State three times. Vitale's career came to a close with a 22-14 win over USC in the Rose Bowl.
Vitale was a team captain in 1988. He earned first-team All-American honors that season, too.
Mike Hammerstein, defensive tackle (1982-85)
Hammerstein's two-year stint as a starter was fast and ferocious, constantly playing behind the line of scrimmage and wreaking havoc on opposing defenses.
As a senior in 1985, he set a single-season Michigan record for tackles for loss (23). The mark now sits at fifth in program history behind Shawn Crable (28.5), Mark Messner (26), Larry Foote (26) and Brandon Graham (26).
That season, Hammerstein also tallied nine sacks, which still ranks ninth in single-season program history.
For his efforts, Hammerstein won the Big Ten Defensive Lineman Of The Year Award and first-team All-American honors.
Hammerstein finished his career with 37 tackles for loss (which ranks 15th in program history) and 17 sacks (which ranks 10th in program history).