Michigan Football Recruiting: The 8 Greatest Recruiting Classes of All Time

Joel GreerCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2012

Michigan Football Recruiting: The 8 Greatest Recruiting Classes of All Time

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    Coach Brady Hoke and his staff are placing the finishing touches on one of the finest recruiting classes in Michigan history.

    True, it may take four or five years to make an accurate assessment, but all of the major recruiting services have given the Wolverines high marks for the 2012 class.

    It's only a matter of time before Michigan is back among the elite teams of college football, a place where the Wolverines became well acquainted during more than 140 years of athletic competition.

    After all, Michigan has claimed 11 national championships, won more games than any college team (895) and has won at the highest percentage (.736). 

    The Wolverines also have one of the most loyal fan bases, play before the largest home crowds and are part of a truly world-class academic institution.

    "There are no excuses for us not to compete at a high level every time we take the field," Hoke told     CBS College Sports during last season's National Signing Day.

    Headed into his second season, Hoke could be on his way to joining Fielding Yost, Fritz Crisler, Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr as one of Michigan's great football coaches.

    Each of these coaches benefited from a few great recruiting classes. Let's take a look at some of them.  


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    The 2004 class was a study in contrasts. Legitimate stars throughout their four-year careers, Chad Henne and Michael Hart were best known for being winless against Ohio State, and even worse, for losing to Appalachian State. 

    However, Henne and Hart led a class which saw Alan Branch, Morgan Trent and Adrian Arrington drafted by the NFL. 

    Henne still holds the Michigan record for passing yards (9,715), and Hart holds the mark for rushing (5,040).

    The 2004 class participated in the 2006 Michigan-Ohio State classic, where both teams entered the game undefeated.  Unfortunately, No.1 ranked Ohio State defeated No. 2 Michigan, 42-39.

    The class went out on a positive note when Michigan defeated Urban Meyer and his Florida Gators 41-35 in the 2008 Capital One Bowl. 


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    The 1995 class excelled both in college and in the NFL. Tom Brady, James Hall, Charles Woodson, Tai Streets, Jerame Tuman, Aaron Shea and Clarence Williams have all played in the pros.

    Brady, of course, spent much of his time at Michigan on the bench but has since won three Super Bowls with New England. 

    Charles Woodson led the Wolverines to the 1997 co-national championship, won the Heisman Trophy as a junior and was a member of Green Bay's Super Bowl XLV championship team.

    Streets is seventh on Michigan's all-time reception list with 144.


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    The passing combination of high school teammates Elvis Grbac and Desmond Howard defined the 1988 class. Who could forget the fourth-down 25-yard touchdown pass from Grbac to Howard in the 1991 victory over Notre Dame?

    Grbac, who completed 20 of 22 passes in the 24-14 victory, twice led the nation in pass completion efficiency. He later played nine years in the NFL and was named to the Pro Bowl with Kansas City in 2000.

    Currently a regular on ESPN's College GameDay, Howard won the Heisman Trophy in 1991 before being named Super Bowl XXXI MVP during Green Bay's 35-21 win over New England.

    The 1988 class, which entered under Bo Schembechler, swept the four meetings with Ohio State and won three Big Ten titles while sharing a fourth. 


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    With freshmen still unable to compete until 1973, the 1971 class played only three seasons. Rookie Dennis Franklin won the 1972 quarterback job over three other competitors, leading the Wolverines to a 30-2-1 record and three co-Big Ten titles.

    Over the three-year period, the Wolverines gave up only 6.25 points per game, but they never beat Ohio State and never went to a bowl game.

    The biggest heart-breaker was the 10-10 tie with Ohio State in the 1973 season finale.  Since both Michigan and Ohio State tied for the title, the 10 Big Ten athletic directors were forced to vote for the Rose Bowl representative.

    Franklin, however, broke his collarbone during the contest, and Ohio State was selected for the trip to Pasadena. 

    The defense was led by two-time All-American cornerback Dave Brown who later played 15 years in the NFL.

    Current Temple defensive coordinator Chuck Heater rushed for 1,995 yards during his Michigan career.


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    This may have been Bump Elliott's last recruiting class, but it was Bo Schembechler who molded this group into champions. 

    It was a raw group of sophomores who helped beat the unbeatable Ohio State Buckeyes, 24-12, in the famous 1969 upset. No less than six of these diaper dandies were in the lineup when the Wolverines beat the undefeated national champions and set off the Ten Year War between mentor Woody Hayes and pupil Bo Schembechler.

    Billy Taylor and Glenn Doughty were at tailback, Jack Harpring, Reggie McKenzie and Guy Murdock manned the offensive line and the trio of Fred Grambeau, Mike Taylor and Tom Darden played tough defense.

    McKenzie, Billy Taylor and Mike Taylor eventually became All-Americans for the class that finished 28-5.

    They nearly won the national title their senior season when a 10-7 win over Ohio State enabled the Wolverines to complete the regular season 11-0.

    Michigan led Stanford 12-10 in the final moments, but Rod Garcia kicked a 31-yard field goal with 16 seconds left to give the Indians a 13-12 victory in the 1972 Rose Bowl.


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    While recruiting was far less sophisticated in the early years, freshman were eligible and often made their marks right away. Dominic Tomasi, Dan Dworsky, Pete Elliott and Wally Teniga arrived in Ann Arbor as World War II ended in 1945.

    All four were around during the magical seasons of 1947 and 1948 when Michigan forged undefeated seasons and a pair of national championships.

    A left guard, Tomasi started 31 games in his four-year career, and was named MVP and team captain of the 1948 team.

    Dworsky played some quarterback, and fullback on offense and played linebacker on defense. He was best known for designing Crisler Arena in 1967.

    Elliott often played in the shadow of his brother Bump, but did manage to start a few games at quarterback in 1947. After Bump graduated and Coach Fritz Crisler retired, Pete Elliott started all nine games at quarterback in 1948, earning All-America honors. 

    Teniga led the 1945 team in rushing before missing 1946 due to service in the U.S. Army. He shared the halfback position in both 1947 and 1948 before being drafted by the New York Giants in the 1949 NFL Draft. He elected to return to Michigan for his fourth season, where he eventually played in the 1949 East-West Shrine game.  


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    The early '30s was another great era of college football at Michigan. 

    From 1930 through 1933, the Wolverines compiled a 31-1-3 record under coach Harry Kipke. Michigan shared four Big Ten titles and won the 1932 and 1933 national championships.

    Four Michigan players were influential in the Wolverines' success through the 1933 season.

    Whitey Wistert, who was a two-way tackle, earned All-America honors in 1933. Both of his brothers, Al and Alvin, previously played for the Wolverines. 

    In addition to being a two-time All-American center, Chuck Bernard had the privilege of being future President Gerald Ford's mentor in 1932 and 1933. When Ford took over in 1934, Michigan's record plummeted to 1-7.

    Halfback Herman Everhardus was the Big ten leading scorer in 1933 with eight touchdowns and 10 PATs, while Ted Pelosky earned All-American honors in both 1932 and 1933.  


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    The finest four year stretch in Michigan football history came along from 1901 through 1904.

    The Wolverines produced a 43-0-1 record including a 49-0 victory over Stanford in the 1902 Rose Bowl.

    Fielding Yost took over the coaching reins from Langdon Lea and proceed to reel off four national championships.

    Boss Weeks was the first quarterback under Yost. He quickly learned Yost's no-huddle offense and responded by helping the Wolverines score 550 points in 1901. From then on, the team was to be called Yost's "Point-a-Minute" Wolverines.

    Neil Snow was another of Yost's early stars. He couldn't have picked a bigger stage when he scored five touchdowns in the 1902 Rose Bowl. Snow, along with Willie Heston, became Yost's first All-Americans.

    Heston was a running back for Yost's first four championship squads. He finished with 2,339 yards and 72 touchdowns with an astounding per carry average of 8.4