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August 31, 2013

Countdown To Kickoff: Game day

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 3-4 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. 4

Jim Harbaugh, quarterback (1983-86)

Harbaugh, now the energetic coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was a talented and brash three-year starter for the Wolverines.

Before the 1986 Ohio State game, he stood in front of the media and said, "I guarantee we will beat Ohio State and go to Pasadena."

"He's 22 years old," then-coach Bo Schembechler said when he heard about the guarantee. "He can say whatever he wants. He didn't say it in the heat of a game. He said it Monday. I won't school him on what to say or what not to say. I'd be more upset if he'd said we'd lose."

But he backed up the words, tossing for 261 yards in a 26-24 Michigan win to send the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl.

Harbaugh cracked the starting lineup as a sophomore - but broke his arm against Michigan State in the fifth game of the season. The Wolverines lost that game and four of their last six to finish 6-6 on the year.

When he came back, Michigan stormed back from Schembechler's worst W-L record.

In Harbaugh's final two years, Michigan went 21-3-1. Harbaugh set Michigan records for completions (387), attempts (620) and yards (5.449) and threw 31 touchdowns.

In 1986, he was the Big Ten Player Of The Year, a consensus All-American and finished third in the Heisman voting.

No. 3

Tripp Welborne, safety (1987-90)

Welborne was an athletic, hard-hitting safety who doubled as the team's punt return specialist, earning two consensus All-American honors (1989, 1990).

During Welborne's career, Michigan compiled an impressive 36-11-1 record and won at least a share of three Big Ten Championships.

He recorded 238 career tackles and picked off nine passes during his career.

As a senior, he set the program single-season record with 455 yards on punt returns, finishing his career with 773 punt return yards on 67 attempts.

No. 2

Charles Woodson, cornerback (1995-97)

There is a case to be made that Woodson is the best player in Michigan football history - and there wouldn't be too many people who would argue against that claim.

Woodson tallied stats in nearly every category imaginable: tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, pass breakups, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, interceptions, punt returns, kick off returns, receiving yards, rushing yards and passing (he threw two career passes, completing both).

A three-year starter, Woodson picked off at least five passes in all three seasons, with five in 1995, five in 1996 and eight in 1997, leading the Wolverines to an undefeated national championship.

Woodson was named the Big Ten Freshman Of The Year in 1995. As a sophomore, he was an Associated Press All-American and won the national Chevrolet Defensive Player Of The Year award.

And, of course, in 1997, Woodson became the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy (Tennessee's Peyton Manning finished second). He also won the Bronko Nagurski Award and the Jim Thorpe Award.

That season, he also tallied 301 yards on punt returns, including a 78-yard touchdown return against Ohio State; caught 12 passing for 238 yards and two touchdowns; rushing five times for 21 yards and a score; and threw a 28-yard pass.

No. 1

Anthony Carter, wide receiver (1979-82) and Braylon Edwards, wide receiver (2001-04)

The No. 1 jersey has a rich history at Michigan. The story goes that Schembechler gave it to Carter before his freshman year to make the scrawny receiver look a little bigger.

After Carter redefined the Wolverines' aerial attack, the jersey number has been worn by some of the most dynamic pass catchers in program history.

The two most associated with the No. 1 jersey are Carter and Edwards, the most recent Wolverine to wear it. It's impossible to pick which one was better; Michigan fans who were alive in the late '70s and '80s will undoubtedly say Carter was the best receiver in program history, while younger fans would be outraged if Edwards wasn't mentioned.

Carter rewrote the Michigan record book with 161 career catches for 3,076 yards and an incredible 37 touchdowns. He also averaged 11.5 yards on 79 career punt returns with two touchdowns.

His game-winning catch as time expired against Indiana in 1979 is still one of the most iconic and famous plays in Michigan football history.

Edwards broke - and still holds - nearly every Michigan receiving record in the books. He posted three 1,000-yard-plus seasons, finishing his career with 252 catches for 3,541 yards and 39 touchdowns.

His senior season is one of the finest performances from a receiver ever - at Michigan or anywhere else. He took over the Michigan State game, catching 11 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns in a game that Michigan was down 27-10 win seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.

He finished that season with 97 catches for 1,330 yards and 15 touchdowns, winnign the Blietnikoff award as the country's best receiver.



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