Top 10 WR/TE in Michigan Football History
Although the University of Michigan has the great tradition of three yards-and-a cloud of dust football, there have been many great pass receivers in the 130 years of maize and blue football. These are the ten best in my opinion that are judged solely on their performance as players for the University, what they did in the professional ranks is irrelevant. Also, this list is in chronological order.
With the long storied history of Michigan football I knew there were bound to be some names that would be passed over, here are those and reasons why.
Mario Manningham, great hands, speed, and leaping ability, but he was never a guy who reliably could catch passes over the middle.
Mercury Hayes had issues in some games and seemingly only performed well under pressure.
Amani Toomer, had a great pro career that none of us who watched him in college could have predicted.
Greg McMurtry, the No. 1 receiver who was left off this list, he is the only player in school history to have over 20 receptions in all four years at Michigan. He is left off largely because he never made All-American.
Bennie Joppru, great receiving Tight End but not the best blocker and fumbled the ball a few too many times.
Also: Jack Clancy, Derrick Walker, Jim Smith, Tai Streets, Ed Frutig, John Kolesar, Marcus Knight, Tony McGee, John Henderson, and Doug Marsh. And many others who's name I can't recall at this moment.
Bennie Oosterbaan E 1925-27
(Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)
Oosterbaan is one of, if not the greatest, Michigan athletes of all time. A three sport letter winner and All-Big Ten in each sport, All-American in Football and Basketball, led the Big Ten in hitting in baseball his senior year.
The most remarkable thing about him as a football player was that he was one of the first wide receivers, indeed he was one of the first players to line up wide of the line of scrimmage. He was one of the first great pass catchers of his time and unlike most of our other members of the top ten was paired with an equally gifted quarterback in Benny Friedman.
In a time when the football itself was much rounder and very difficult to throw Benny and Bennie were the first great passing combination in football, as Bennie caught at least eight touchdown passes in his first eligible season which was only eight games at the time, an average of at least a touchdown per game that was unprecedented at the time.
Oosterbaan threw two touchdown passes in the dedication game for Michigan Stadium in his senior year, and was awarded the Big Ten Medal of Honor at the end of the year for his accomplishments as a scholar athlete. He turned down pro offers, and eventually coached Michigan Football from 1948-58 winning a National Championship in his first season.
Ron Kramer E 1954-56
(Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)
Kramer actually played for Oosterbaan, and in many ways was just as talented, lettering in three sports just like his coach, only he lettered in track instead of baseball. On the football field he was largely used in a way that would remind many today of a modern tight end, at the same time he could be expected to go deep and catch deep balls like today's deep threat wide receivers.
This two time All-American was the first Wolverine to catch three touchdown passes in a game, against Missouri in 1955. He also caught a 70 yard touchdown pass against UCLA in the home opener of his senior season, one of the first televised games from Michigan Stadium. Oosterbaan once said about his star player,
"Kramer was one of the fiercest competitors I've ever seen, to him the impossible was just a challenge."
He played ten seasons with the NFL champ Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, where he became the prototype for the NFL tight end along with Mike Ditka.
Jim Mandich TE 1967-69
(Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)
A vital part of Michigan's greatest upset victory, Mandich caught six passes for 78 yards against then No. 1 Ohio State in 1969 and was the team captain on Bo Schembechler's first Big Ten Championship squad. Mandich's role on the team was vital in the Wolverines unlikely victory over the Buckeyes who had the best strong safety in football at the time in Jack Tatum.
To quote Michael Rosenberg's book on the ten year war: 'War As They Knew It."
"Bo knew that if he just ran away from Tatum he was just playing into Woody's hands, he also knew that when Tatum blitzed... it would leave Jim Mandich open over the middle."
The Wolverines won 24-12, Mandich was named All-American, and was drafted by the Miami Dolphins, playing on the 1972 undefeated Super Bowl champions, and is currently works the radio booth for his former pro team.
Anthony Carter WR 1979-82
(Photo courtesy of the Michigan Athletic Department)
AC No. 1. The first in what would become a tradition at Michigan that the jersey with the number one on it would be reserved for a wide receiver.
This three time All-American helped firmly establish Michigan as more than just a running team. He was the first pure deep threat wide receiver amongst the Wolverines.
While best remembered for his game winning catch against Indiana in his freshman year, he also was a vital part in Bo winning his first bowl game in the 1981 Rose Bowl against Washington. He also tore then No. 1 Notre Dame a new one in the 1981 home opener catching three passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns.
Carter later became an All-Pro receiver with the Minnesota Vikings.
Desmond Howard WR 1989-91
"The pose" was on a punt return and that was how the magic man would make his money in the NFL, but he also caught his share of passes and touchdowns. In his Heisman winning season of 1991 he caught 62 passes, 19 of which were touchdowns, an average of a touchdown for every three catches.
On top of that was his game sealing catch against Notre Dame in which he dived in the back of the end zone on fourth and inches to snap a four game losing streak to the Irish.
Derrick Alexander WR 1989-93
(Photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library)
Often overlooked due to the fact that he played alongside Desmond Howard and Amani Toomer, this All-American was the leading receiver on an undefeated Big Ten champion squad in 1992 and averaged 17.7 yards per catch in his senior season. Alexander was a true clutch player who could bring the Wolverines to life when they needed him the most.
A good example of this is his 50 yard reception against Ohio State his senior year. The Wolverines had to beat an undefeated Buckeye squad in order to be bowl eligible.
Quarterback Todd Collins went deep to him and he made a diving catch at the one yard line setting up the game sealing touchdown, he put a happy ending on his tumultuous senior season in the Hall of Fame Bowl by returning a punt for a touchdown against NC State.
Jerame Tuman TE 1995-98
The only player on this list who was an All-American on a National Championship team. Tuman was one of the greatest players in Michigan football history, a great receiving tight end who could make catches most wide outs couldn't make, and a superb blocker who could open up holes on the many off-tackle runs that the Wolverines called under Lloyd Carr.
Tumane was also a clutch player who scored the game winning touchdowns in the two closest games the 97 Wolverines had. Against Iowa, a school that recruited him heavily coming out of high school in Kansas, he helped complete a comeback from a 14 point deficit as he scored the winning touchdown with less than minutes left in the game.
In the Rose Bowl he curled outside on a Brian Griese bootleg and was wide open to catch a touchdown pass that put the game on ice as Michigan would finish the perfect season with a 21-16 victory.
Tumane later won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL.
David Terrell WR 1998-2000
This guy made Tom Brady look like draft material when he was at Michigan. In fact most teams passed over Brady because they thought that he was just lobbing it up there and Terrell was having to do all the work.
But what work they did do, when you look at it.
In 1999 he helped Michigan set new records for passing in a single season and helped pull off the biggest bowl game comeback in school history against SEC champ Alabama in the Orange Bowl, catching 10 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns. He was named the MVP of the game and was the primary reason why the Wolverines didn't give up when the Tide defense absolutely shut down the Michigan rushing attack in the first half.
Marquise Walker WR 1999-2001
I'm going to get a lot of flack for this one, and I understand that he dropped some passes against Ohio State in 2001, when they could've beaten Tressel in his first season. While that may be true, i still think the "spread eagle catch" that he made against Iowa that same season is the most amazing play I've ever seen a Michigan football player make.
It was third and goal and a touchdown would tie the ball game at Kinnick Field. Quarterback John Navarre was in the midst of a dreadful growing pain of a season, and he heaved the ball into the back of the end zone hoping to god somebody in maize and blue would catch it.
Marquise Walker with his outstretched arm made a spectacular one handed catch while falling down, it would energize the Wolverines to a victory that day, and ultimately give me the only reason I need to put him in the top 10 of Michigan's Wide Receivers.
Braylon Edwards WR 2001-2004
This is the iconic image for the man, the myth, the legend, the culmination of the No. 1 receiver. Taking the ball away from a Michigan State defender in the end zone for what would be the game tying touchdown in one of the greatest games in school history.
Edwards earned his spot on this list by coming to Michigan the son of an alumni, who wanted to play wide out, was given the number 80 when he asked for the number one.
He was told by coach Lloyd Carr, "You have to earn Number one."
After a superb sophomore year he was told that in his junior year he would have it. After winning all-conference honors and a Big Ten championship his junior year he turned down offers to go pro and played his senior year when he made All-American and almost single-handedly defeated Michigan State in the civil war.