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June 13, 2013

U-M all-time team: the defense

In the last 133 years of Michigan football, there have been countless great players at every position on the field.

But who's the best of the best?

This is my vote for the Michigan all-time defense. Head to the message boards to voice your opinion.

Click here to see the offense.

Cornerback: Charles Woodson, 1995-97

By the start of his junior year in 1997, opposing offenses knew what they were up against. Woodson had intercepted 10 total passes in his first two seasons and generally wreaked havoc on Big Ten wide receivers.

Even with that fair warning, teams still tried to throw on Woodson in 1997 - and he certainly made them pay. He capped off his career with eight interceptions in his final season, which is tied for the third-most in a year in program history. His 18 career interceptions is second in program history.

Woodson's shutdown ability, offensive prowess and occasional special teams explosiveness led him to the 1997 Heisman Trophy during the Wolverines' national championship run.

Second String: Ty Law, 1992-94

Law was an All-American in 1994. He finished his career with 164 tackles, 19 pass breakups and eight interceptions.

Safety: Tom Curtis, 1966-69

Curtis is the definition of a ball-hawking safety. Curtis set the Michigan single-season interception record in 1968 with 10, a record which still stands, and added eight more as a senior (tied with Woodson for third all time), including two crucial picks in the Wolverines' upset victory over Woody Hayes' Ohio State squad.

His 25 career interceptions is still a program record, as is the 434 yards he racked up in interception returns (the yardage mark was an NCAA record at the time that has since been broken). He was a consensus All-American in 1969.

Second String: Ernest Shazor, 2001-04

Shazor put up huge numbers at Michigan, finishing his three-year career with 166 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, three sacks, eight pass breakups, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He was a consensus All-American in 2004 and left early for the NFL Draft.

Safety: Tripp Welborne, 1987-90

During Welborne's career, the Wolverines went 36-11-1 and won three Big Ten Championships - and Welborne was a big part of that, as a big-play safety and a light-out punt returner.

Welborne amassed an incredible 268 tackles and picked off nine total passes, earning consensus All-American honors in both 1989 and 1990.

Second String: Wally Teninga, 1945-49

Teninga played during an era in which then-Michigan coach Fritz Crisler was experimenting with the two-platoon system, but he still starred in every facet of the game, as a halfback, the safety and a punt returner.

Cornerback: Leon Hall, 2003-06

Hall finished his career with 43 pass breakups (No. 1 in program history) and 12 interceptions (No. 4 all-time). He was a first-team Freshman All-American (2003), a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (2005) and the Jim Thorpe Award (2006) and a consensus first-team All-American (2006).

Second String: Thom Darden, 1968-71

Darden is only player in Michigan history to return to interceptions for touchdowns in the same season (1971). He was an All-American that season and finished his career with 11 total interceptions (sixth in program history).

Linebacker: Jarrett Irons, 1992-96

Irons ranks second in program history in career tackles, racking up an impressive 440 in his career. He also ranks second in career games with double-digit tackles (19). He also forces and recovered four fumbles and ranks ninth in program history with 24 career pass breakups.

He burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman, leading the team in tackles in 1993. Irons was an All-American in 1996.

Second String: Marty Huff, 1967-70

Huff's senior season is one of the best ever by a Michigan linebacker. He compiled 124 tackles, five interceptions and four pass breakups, earning consensus All-American honors and a spot in the East-West Shrine Game.

Middle Linebacker: Ron Simpkins, 1976-79

Simpkins is one of the most prolific Wolverines in program history - at any position.

A consensus All-American as a senior, Simpkins posted three seasons that still rank among the best by a linebacker, in terms of single-season tackles. He hand 175 in 1977 (No. 1 in program history), 168 in 1968 (No. 3) and 150 in 1979 (No. 10).

He finished with 25 double-digit tackle seasons (first in program history) and 516 total career tackles (also a program record). He also holds the program record for career fumble recoveries (seven).

Second String: Larry Foote, 1998-2001

Foote ranks seventh in program history in career tackles for loss (44). He was an All-American in 2001.

Linebacker: Erick Anderson, 1987-91

Anderson ranks third in program history in total tackles (behind Simpkins and Irons) with 428, and he was the Wolverines' leading tackler for four straight seasons.

He was team captain and earned All-American honors in 1991 as a senior.

Second String: John Anderson, 1974-77

Anderson racked up 190 career tackles, 13 tackles for loss and four interceptions, earning All-American honors in 1977.

Defensive End: LaMarr Woodley, 2003-06

Woodley had three seasons that rank among the top 15 single-season tackles for loss in program history. He tallied 16.5 in 2006 (No. 1 in program history) and 16 in both 2004 and 2005 (No. 13 in program history).

He ranks third in program history with 52.5 tackles for loss and fourth in program history with 24 career sacks.

Second String: James Hall, 1995-99

Hall ranks ninth in program history with 40 tackles for loss and third in program history with 25 sacks.

Defensive Tackle: Glen Steele, 1995-97

Steele wreaked havoc in opposing backfields

Second String: Rob Renes, 1995-999

Defensive Tackle: Mark Messner, 1984-88

Messner was in the opponents' backfield more often than not. He still holds program records for tackles for loss (70) and sacks (36) in a career. Messner was a two-time All-American, earning the distinction in each of his last two seasons.

Second String: Mike Hammerstein, 1981-85

Hammerstein tallied 161 career tackles, including 33 tackles for loss and 16 sacks, earning All-American honors in 1985.

Defensive End: Brandon Graham, 2006-09

By the end of his career, Graham was one of the fiercest pass rushers in the nation. He is one of just two Wolverines to have two seasons with double-digit sacks, tallying 10 in 2008 and another 10.5 in 2009, which ranks as the sixth-most in a single season in program history.

Graham currently ranks second in program history in career sacks, with 29.5. He was an All-American in 2009.

Second String: Tim Jamison, 2004-08

Jamison was an All-American in 2008 and finished his career with 20 sacks, which ranks eighth in program history.

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