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August 6, 2013

Countdown To Kickoff: Day 26

Since 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.

No. 84

Merritt Green, end (1950-52)

Green was a two-way player for the Wolverines, playing tight end on the offensive side of the ball and defensive end on the other.

He first cracked the starting lineup on defense as a sophomore in 1950, taking over for an injured Harry Allis seven games into the season. The following spring, he earned the Meyer Morton Award, given by the M Club Of Chicago to the "player who shows the greatest development and most promise as a result of the annual spring practice."

Over the next three seasons, he started 22 consecutive games on defense and chipped in as a backup on the offensive end. He was voted a team captain as a senior in 1952. The Michigan statistical archives do not keep defensive stats from the era in which Green played.

No. 83

Bennie Joppru, tight end (1999-2002)

After three seasons in Ann Arbor, Joppru looked like a solid - but not particularly memorable - member of the Michigan tight end lineage.

After Jerame Tuman's productive career ended in 1998, Joppru collected 32 passes for 221 yards and three scores over the next three seasons - but that's when Joppru's career really took off.

In 2002, the senior co-captain caught at least five passes in six of 13 games - and caught at least one in every contest, proving himself as an integral part of a high-powered offense that led the Wolverines to a 10-3 record and a win over Florida in the Citrus Bowl.

Joppru finished the season with 53 catches (which still stands as a Michigan single-season record) for an impressive 579 yards (10.9 yards per catch) and five touchdowns.

Joppru was selected as a first-team All-Big Ten player and a third-team All-American.

No. 82

Jim Conley, end (1962-64)

Conley was a three-year starting offensive end, used primarily as a blocker. As a senior in 1964, Conley had his most productive year, statistically, catching six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, which earned him first-team All-Big Ten honors.

His teammates elected him captain before the 1964 season, and he led the Wolverines to an 8-1, conference championship season.

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