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August 19, 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.
Chuck Heater, tailback (1972-74)
Heater's career got off to an inauspicious start, in Michigan coach Bo Schembechler's eyes. Heading into the 1972 season (Heater's sophomore year), Heater missed a day of practice, landing himself in some hot water.
"You know why Chuck Heater, the Michigan back, got in Schembechler's doghouse?" pondered the Chicago Tribune. "Chuck skipped a day of practice for his honeymoon. Not sufficient excuse, rule Bo."
But Heater got back in Schembechler's good graces soon enough, becoming an integral part of the offense in '72. In the fourth game of the season, Heater came off the bench to lead the Wolverines with 94 rushing yards and two scores, sparking the Wolverines to a 35-7 win over Navy.
Heater was a reliable No. 2 ball carrier in three seasons, behind Ed Shuttlesworth, Clint Jaslerig and Rob Lytle in consecutive seasons, finishing his career with 1,995 yards and 17 scores on 407 attempts.
James Pace, halfback (1955-57)
Pace was a do-everything halfback for the Wolverines in three seasons. He racked up 95 passing yards, 1,334 rushing yards, 290 receiving yards and averaged 23.8 yards per kick return and 12.2 yards per punt return in his career.
Pace really hit his stride as a senior in 1957.
He racked up 664 rushing yards on 123 carries (5.4 yards per rush), scoring seven touchdowns.
He also caught 11 passes for 122 yards and two scores and tallied his only punt return touchdown.
After the season, Pace won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the Big Ten MVP and was voted the Michigan MVP by coaches and teammates.
Billy Taylor, halfback (1969-71)
Taylor burst onto the scene in 1969, Schembechler's first season and became one of the most prolific players in Michigan history.
His 3,072 career rushing yards set a Michigan record, which stood for six years until Rob Lytle broke it. He also set a career record for carriers (587) and finished with 30 rushing touchdowns, which ranked second at the time in program history behind Tom Harmon's 32.
Taylor rushed 141 times for 864 yards and seven scores in '69, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors.
He topped that in 1970, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors after rushing 197 times for 911 yards and 10 scores.
Taylor saved the best for last, rushing an incredible 249 times for 1,297 times and 13 touchdowns in 1971 and earning first-team All-Big Ten honors again.
His 102.3 rushing yards per game over his career was a Michigan record until until Mike Hart finished his career with a 111.5 rushing yards per game average.