The Wolverine

May 2021 Issue

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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10 THE WOLVERINE MAY 2021   INSIDE MICHIGAN ATHLETICS TWO WOLVERINES AMONG COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S BEST DEFENDERS SINCE 2000 college football staff writer Bill Connelly recently ranked the top 80 defensive players of the 21st century thus far (not including the 2020 season), and two former Michi- gan players made the cut. Former safety/viper linebacker Jabrill Peppers (2014-16) was tabbed as the 53rd-best defender since 2000, while linebacker LaMarr Woodley (2003-06) checked in at No. 78 in the rankings. In three years, Peppers — a unanimous first-team All- American in his junior season — totaled 125 tackles, 21.5 stops for loss, four sacks, 11 passes defended and one forced fumble, while also contributing some on offense — register- ing six career touchdowns — and serving as the team's punt returner. "[Former defensive coordinator] Don Brown was an im- mediate hit as Michigan's defensive coordinator, but he had a cheat code in Peppers, an early nickelback/outside linebacker prototype who recorded 13 tackles for loss and finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 2016," Connelly wrote. Woodley posted 177 tackles, 50.5 tackles for loss, 24 sacks, five passes defended and 10 forced fumbles during his U-M career. "The center of gravity for arguably Michigan's best team of the 21st century, Woodley capped a solid career by record- ing 16.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, taking home the Lom- bardi Award and unanimous All-America honors in 2006," Connelly noted. Peppers, a captain for the New York Giants, is heading into his fifth NFL season, while Woodley went on to play nine years in the league and win Super Bowl XLIII with the Pitts- burgh Steelers before retiring in 2015. CAM YORK INKS THREE-YEAR ENTRY-LEVEL CONTRACT WITH NHL'S PHILADELPHIA FLYERS Michigan hockey sophomore defenseman Cam York signed a three-year entry-level contract with the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers, the program announced March 30. The Big Ten Defenseman of the Year was selected by the organi- zation in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft with the 14th overall pick and will now move on to pursue his professional goals after two seasons in Ann Arbor. "Thank you to the University of Michigan for the oppor- tunity to play hockey for such an amazing institution," York said in a statement. "It has been an honor to represent the block M, playing the sport I love so much. "First, I want to thank the coaching staff, for pushing me to not only be a better hockey player but a better human be- ing. Secondly, my teammates — I love you guys. You made my two years here unforgettable. COVID took a lot of things from us, but the one thing it couldn't take are the memories we've made. "To everyone behind the scenes of Michigan hockey, thank you for all you do for us. Your work does not go unnoticed. And last but not least, to the Children of Yost and all Michi- gan hockey fans, you are the best! You make our games so exciting and added so much to my college hockey experi- ence. Thank you for all your support. Forever Go Blue. And to Philly ... I couldn't be more excited to join the organization. Let's gooooo!" York, a first-team All-Big Ten and All-America pick, led Big Ten defensemen in scoring with 20 points, notching four goals and 16 assists, on the year. JIM HARBAUGH LISTED AS A TOP-25 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACH The Athletic's Bruce Feldman released his annual rankings of the top 25 head coaches throughout college football, and Michigan head man Jim Harbaugh made the list at No. 22. In co-worker Stewart Mandel's countdown, Harbaugh did not make the cut for the third straight year. Five fellow Big Ten coaches checked in ahead of Harbaugh per Feldman, including two ranking in the top 10 — Penn State's James Franklin (No. 5) and Ohio State's Ryan Day (8). The other league coaches ahead of Harbaugh were North- western's Pat Fitzgerald (11), Iowa's Kirk Ferentz (13) and Wisconsin's Paul Chryst (21). Indiana's Tom Allen rounded out the list at No. 25. U-M's seventh-year head coach ranked 18th on Feldman's list a year ago, but a 2-4 season in 2020 bumped him down to No. 22. "The most polarizing coach on this list," Feldman wrote. "No doubt, his teams have been dismal against arch-rival Ohio State and not too much better against Michigan State. "Last year's 2-4 season was ugly — and that was without having to face OSU in Columbus. Harbaugh's performance in Ann Arbor has been disappointing given the expecta- tions. Still, he is 34-16 in Big Ten play, not much worse than Chryst's record, and Harbaugh has to face OSU and Penn State every year. "He has had four top-20 finishes in his six years. The other thing on his résumé is he did do a phenomenal job taking what was an atrocious Stanford program and transforming it into a legitimate top-five team that won a BCS bowl and fin- ished No. 4 before going to San Francisco and doing some amazing work with what had been a terrible 49ers team." — Clayton Sayfie Former safety/viper linebacker Jabrill Peppers (2014-16) was tabbed by as the 53rd-best collegiate defender since 2000. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL MAIZE AND BLUE NOTEBOOK

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