During the abysmal 2020 football season, according to PFF, the Wolverines only had 8 sacks accounted for from a defensive lineman. The maize and blue had an average pass rush, and there wasn’t much help in the trenches from the big men — which will need to change for the upcoming season.
Going away from last year, and the current team, we continue our series of ranking the top 10 players at each position since 1995 — now onto the defensive line. The concept will be the same: in order to be recognized the player had to have played at least one season in 1995 or later, and they cannot still be on the current team.
There have been so many great defensive linemen in Michigan history, so it was hard coming up with a top 10 given that it’s been the most prolific position in recent memory. Statistics, awards, and team history were all major factors in the ranking.
Before I go on with the top 10, I want to give a shoutout to honorable mentions that didn’t make the list:
In case you missed them:
Top 10 Michigan football offensive lineman since 1995
View 10 items
Chris Wormley (2013-2016)
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Career statistics: 61 solo tackles (122 total tackles), 32.5 tackles-for-loss, 18 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery Best performance: 2016 vs UCF; 3 solo tackles (7 total tackles), 1.5 tackles-for-loss, and 1 sack Why the rank? I know this one is going to make some people scratch their heads, but hear me out. Wormley was a big-time contributor for all four seasons he was in Ann Arbor. He was a two-time All-Big Ten awardee and a second-team All-American in his senior season. Wormley might not have been a real flashy player, but put in a ton of effort and it showed every time he took the field. The former All-American was a third-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2017 NFL draft.
Rashan Gary (2016-2018)
Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary celebrates a sack with his customary glasses pose.
Career statistics: 53 solo tackles (136 total tackles), 23.5 tackles-for-loss, 10 sacks, and 1 forced fumble Best performance: 2017 vs Ohio State; 4 solo tackles (11 total tackles), 2.5 tackles-for-loss, and 2 sacks Why the rank? Things didn’t go as planned for the former No. 1 overall recruit, but he had an admirable career. Gary was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten during his career, and he faced a ton of double teams a game. It didn’t seem that the coaches used Gary in the correct role, nor was he asked to be the dominating pass rusher many thought he could’ve been. Gary was selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers.
James Hall (1996-1999)
Photo: Harry How /Allsport
Career statistics: 121 solo tackles (182 total tackles), 36 tackles-for-loss, 26.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 fumbles recovered. Best performance: 1997 vs Washington State (national championship game); 2 solo tackles (5 total tackles), 2 tackles-for-loss, and 5.5 sacks. Why the rank? James Hall was an athletic freak in terms of getting off the edge and making a play on the opposing quarterback. Hall ranks No. 3 in the Michigan record books for his 26.5 sacks for a career. Hall was a second-team All-Big Ten in 1998 and was named to the Sporting News All-American team in 1999.
Alan Branch (2004-2006)
Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Career statistics: 37 solo tackles (61 total tackles), 11 tackles-for-loss, 6.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 fumbles recovered. Best performance: 2005 vs Nebraska; 4 solo tackles (8 total tackles), 2 tackles-for-loss, and 1.5 sacks Why the rank? Branch was only a two-year starter for the Wolverines, and if he would’ve played his senior year, he would have been a dominant threat in the trenches. Branch was named an All-American in 2006, along with being named first-team All-Big Ten. Branch was selected in the second round of the 2007 draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
Maurice Hurst Jr. (2014-2017)
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Career statistics: 64 solo tackles (133 total tackles), 33.5 tackles-for-loss, 12.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery Best performance: 2017 vs Michigan State; 6 solo tackles (10 total tackles), and 3.5 tackles-for-loss Why the rank? Big Mo was a force in the trenches — that required double teams at all times — and he was a fan favorite. Hurst had an incredible senior season that led to the following awards in 2017:
First-team All-Big Ten
Hurst was a fifth-round pick by the Oakland Raiders in the 2018 NFL draft.
Jason Horn (1992-1995)
Photo: Getty Images
Career Statistics: 103 solo tackles (143 total tackles), 18 tackles-for-loss, 24 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 3 fumbles recovered Best performance: 1995 vs Texas A&M; 6 solo tackles (7 total tackles), and 1 sack Why the rank? Horn was a mammoth of a man, but he was able to get to the opposing quarterbacks at relative ease — he’s tied for No. 4 in the Michigan record books with 24 career sacks. Horn was twice named first-team All-Big Ten and he was a consensus All-American in 1995.
Chase Winovich (2015-2018)
Career statistics: 72 solo tackles (185 total tackles), 44.5 tackles-for-loss, 18 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 fumbles recovered Best performance: 2017 at Purdue; 4 solo tackles (8 total tackles), 3.5 tackles-for-loss, and 2.5 sacks Why the rank? Talk about a fan favorite — everyone liked Chase Winovich. And he was often talked about being the best defensive lineman on the team his last couple of seasons in Ann Arbor, though always compared to counterpart Rashan Gary. Winovich had plenty of accolades: 2018 All-American, 2018 first-team All-Big Ten, 2018 team MVP, and second-team All-Big Ten in 2017. Winovich was a third-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft by the New England Patriots.
Glen Steele (1994-1997)
Photo: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport
Career statistics: 112 solo tackles (157 total tackles), 45 tackles-for-loss, 24 sacks Best performance: 1997 vs Colorado; 5 solo tackles (6 total tackles), 4 tackles-for-loss, and 2 sacks Why the rank? Steele is tied for No. 4 in the Wolverine record books with his 24 career sacks. He was named first-team All-American in 1997, as well as first team All-Big Ten — and he also became a national champion. Steele was a fourth-round pick in the 1998 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Brandon Graham (2006-2009)
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Career statistics: 86 solo tackles (138 total tackles), 55.5 tackles-for-loss, 29.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, and 3 fumbles recovered Best performance: 2009 at Wisconsin; 6 solo tackles (11 total tackles), 4 tackles-for-loss, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble Why the rank? Graham was a shining light during the dark Rich Rodriguez years. While nothing seemed to go right for the team during his last two years, things went Brandon Graham’s way. Graham was the Big Ten MVP in 2009, first-team All-Big Ten in 2009, second-team All-Big Ten in 2008, and was the team MVP in 2008 and 2009. Graham is No. 2 in the Wolverine history book with his 29.5 career sacks. Graham was a first-round pick in the 2010 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Lamarr Woodley (2003-2006)
Photo: Joe Robbins-USA TODAY Sports
Career statistics: 130 solo tackles (177 total tackles), 47 tackles-for-loss, 24 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and 5 fumble recoveries Best performance: 2006 at Penn State; 3 solo tackles (5 total tackles), 2 tackles-for-loss, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble Why the rank? Woodley has to be considered one of the all-time great defensive players that have played in Ann Arbor. Depending on the front, Woodley could excel at both the edge or linebacker position. Woodley is tied at No. 4 with 24 career sacks and is No. 1 with 12 single-season sacks in Michigan history. Woodley left the maize and blue with these awards:
First-team All-Big Ten in 2006
Big Ten DPOY and team MVP in 2006
Ted Hendricks award in 2006
Second-team All-Big Ten in 2005
Woodley was a second-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2007 NFL draft.
Read more: https://sports.yahoo.com/top-10-michigan-football-defensive-223726959.html?src=rss