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August 15, 2013

Countdown To Kickoff: Day 17

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. 56

Lamarr Woodley, defensive end (2003-06)

After three solid seasons as a pass rusher, Woodley had compiled 36 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, impressive numbers by any standard.

But in 2006 - his senior season in which he was voted team captain and led the Wolverines to the most dominant defensive campaign since the 1997 national championship squad - Woodley played like a madman.

He doubled his career sack total, leading the Big Ten with 12.0 sacks (which ranked eighth nationally that season) and added 16.5 tackles for loss to his total.

Woodley's 12 sacks tied a Michigan single-season record, originally set by David Bowens in 1996. His 24 career sacks ranks fourth on Michigan's all-time list (Mark Messner holds the record with 36).

His 16.5 tackles for loss is the 12th best single-season total in Michigan history, and he ranks third in career tackles for loss with 52.5 (behind Messner's 70 and Brandon Graham's 56).

After his stalwart senior season, Woodley was recognized as one of the best players in the country. He won was the first Wolverine to ever win the Lombardi Trophy, given annually to the best offensive or defensive lineman in the country. He also won the Ted Hendricks Award, given annually to the nation's best defensive end.

Woodley, who was selected by the Steelers in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft, earned first-team All-American honors as a senior.

No. 55

Brandon Graham, defensive end (2006-09)

At Detroit (Mich.) Crockett, Graham built a legacy as a truly ferocious player. In one game his junior season, he posted 12 tackles, four sacks, four forced fumbles, two blocked punts and scored a 78-yard touchdown on a fake punt.

After playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Graham earned Parade All-American honors and was ranked the No. 15 overall player in the country by Rivals.com.

But his Michigan career didn't get off to the quick start many had expected. As a freshman, Graham saw the field in just two games.

He worked his way into the regular rotation in 2007, racking up 25 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, an impressive 8.5 racks and three forced fumbles.

And his productivity exploded from there. As a junior he total 20.0 tackles for loss, 10.0 sacks (with 46 total tackles) and two forced fumbles, quickly proving himself as one of the most disruptive players in the country.

And, like Woodley before him, Graham exploded as a senior. He led the country in tackles for loss in 2009, with 26.0. That number is tied with Messner and Larry Foote for the second-most single-season tackles for loss in program history (Shawn Crable's 28.5 in 2007 is the program record).

Despite playing on a rather porous defense, Graham also tallied 10.5 sacks on the year, which ranks sixth in program history. Graham and Messner are the only two players in program history to have multiple seasons with double-digit sack totals.

Graham's 29.5 career sacks ranks second in program history, behind Messner's 36.0. His 56 career tackles for loss is second to Messner's 70.

Graham was named a first-team All-American in 2009 and won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award, given annually to the Big Ten MVP.

No. 54

Bill Pritula, tackle (1942, 1946-47)

In 1942, Pritula was a dominant offensive tackle and a member of the famed "Seven Oak Posts" offensive line, along with fellow All-American Julius Franks, Al Wistert, Merv Pregulman and Elmer Madar. (That's right: imagine running the ball behind an offensive line comprised of five guys who would win All-American honors at some point in their careers.)

He played every snap of every game that season, because the Wolverines had a very small roster, due to the many young men who were serving in the World War II effort.

Pritula himself left school to enroll, spending three years as a U.S. Army Air Corps engineer in the Philippines.

When Pritula returned to school, he reprised his role as right tackle, opening up running lanes for the famed Mad Magicians in 1947, helping the Wolverines to an undefeated national championship season.


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