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July 12, 2007

Top 5 freshman impacts of the last 20 years

As Michigan fans anxiously await the 2007 season, the Wolverines' newest crop of freshmen are hard at work, determined to start fall camp in the best shape of their lives. Each (even the o-lineman thanks to Justin Boren) hope to make an impact as a rookie, but few do. Before guessing which five may, here is a look at the Top 5 freshmen of the last 20 years who have impacted …

5. Ricky Powers, running back, 1990: Before there was Mike Hart and his freshman-rushing record of 1,455 yards, Powers held the mark when he rushed for 748 yards on 144 carries for a 9-3 team that featured starting tailback Jon Vaughn. Powers wasn't an instant star. He carried the ball just 13 times in U-M's first three games, while Vaughn rushed for 579 yards. The junior starter struggled to maintain his pace, however, lending more opportunity to Powers. In the final four weeks of the season, the rookie from Akron, Ohio, rushed for 100 yards in every game, totaling 480 yards and scoring twice in leading Michigan to four consecutive wins.

4. Ty Law, cornerback, 1992: A Freshman All-American, Law boasts a first season that would be the pinnacle of success by a rookie cornerback had a young pup named Charles Woodson not shown up a few years later. Still, as a freshman Law was darn good. He led U-M's true freshmen with 49 tackles, including 10 against Ohio State in a 13-13 tie. He finished with four pass break ups after earning the stating job midway through the season. He displaced Alfie Burch against Minnesota, and rose to the occasion with four tackles and a pair of pass break ups. Law would go on to start 30 games in a row before leaving Michigan a year early for the NFL.

3. Chad Henne, quarterback, 2004: Though he was most often compared to Rick Leach - the only two true freshman to start a season opener - Henne actually was a far better passer than Leach and draws more favorable comparisons to some of the best seasons by a Michigan quarterback ever. He tied the single-season record for touchdowns with 25 and his 2,743 yards were second only (actually third) to a pair of John Navarre campaigns. Henne was named to the Freshman All-American team in 2004 and was a Big Ten honorable mention recipient after leading the Wolverines to a 9-3 record and a share of the conference title, with a 7-1 league mark.

2. Charles Woodson, cornerback, 1995: Though he was only a rookie, Woodson may have been Michigan's best defender in 1995. He led the Wolverines with five interceptions - the most since Law's six in 1993 - and eight total takeaways. He also accumulated 65 tackles, including two for loss. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and an All-Big Ten first-team performer, Woodson was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after shutting down Terry Glenn in a 31-23 U-M victory over Ohio State. Woodson limited Glenn, who had 64 catches for 1,411 yards and 17 scores in 1995, to four catches and 72 yards, while picking off two passes.

1. Mike Hart, running back, 2004: For all the success of the rest on this list, no freshman in the history of the program can claim to have had a better rookie year than Hart. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year, he shattered Powers' previous freshman record by more than 700 yards, finishing with 1,455 . He led the conference in rushing with 1,214 yards in eight contests (151.8 yards per game). With back-to-back 200-yard efforts against Illinois and Purdue Hart became only the second Michigan back in school history to record a pair of consecutive 200-yard efforts, and with a 224-yard performance against MSU a week later is the only Wolverine to do so three weeks in a row. Hart's emergence for the Maize and Blue freed receiver Braylon Edwards in the secondary, and the senior wideout reset the record books.

Also considered: Tyrone Wheatley (1991); Anthony Thomas (1997); Marlin Jackson (2001); and Mario Manningham (2005).

5 Freshmen Who Should Impact in 2007
1. Donovan Warren
2. Ryan Mallett
3. Junior Hemingway
4. Artis Chambers
5. Vince Helmuth

Look for features on Michigan's incoming freshmen, including staff picks on who will and won't play, in the weeks to come.

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