Michigan football all-time roster: Coaches, kickers and specialists

·7 min read

Michigan football is arguably the most storied program in all of college football.

The Wolverines have not only incredible tradition, but were an integral part of college football’s past, along with its present. From the winged helmets, inventing college football’s ‘platoon’ system (separate players playing offense and defense), touching the banner, and being the all-time wins leader, there’s a lot to like about the maize and blue. But what about those who actually wore the uniforms? Who were the best?

That’s a loaded question, of course. We came up with Michigan’s all-time roster, not necessarily deciding who had the best career while they were in Ann Arbor, but who is the overall best (meaning, to some degree, we’re factoring in NFL production).

Here are the best coaches and specialists in our opinion to ever come through Ann Arbor.

See Michigan’s all-time offense and all-time defense

Check out our other College Wire all-time lineups: AlabamaArkansasAuburnClemsonColoradoFloridaGeorgiaIowaLSUNebraskaNorth CarolinaOhio StateOklahomaOregonPenn StateRutgersTennesseeTexasTexas A&MUSCWisconsin

Starting K: Jake Moody

Photo: Isaiah Hole

The first player on our lists whose playing career isn’t yet done, Moody won the Lou Groza Award in 2021, and is expected to be among the best, if not the best, kicker in college football in 2022.

Backup K: Jay Feely

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A four-year letterman, Feely didn’t have perfect stats, but was an honorable mention on the All-Big Ten team in 1998 — the year after the Wolverines won the national championship, a team he was a part of.

Starting P: Zoltan Mesko

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A big-legged punter from Romania, Mesko was a fan favorite, despite there being something of a punting rotation his first few years. A semifinalist for the Guy Award in 2008, he made the All-Big Ten first team, and was a fourth-team All-American.

Backup P: Brad Robbins

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Our second inclusion of a current player, Robbins is in his sixth year with the program. A three-time All-Big Ten honoree, Robbins has the chance to be the best punter in program history once all is said and done.

Starting returner: Desmond Howard

Desmond Howard
Desmond Howard

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Before Charles Woodson’s enigmatic return, Desmond Howard made the infamous move of striking the Heisman pose after returning a punt for a touchdown against Ohio State. It was the moment that cemented his status as the Heisman Trophy winner, and one of the most iconic in all of football.

Backup returner: Charles Woodson

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Not to be undone, Woodson returned a punt against Ohio State to all but cement his legacy and earn himself a Heisman Trophy in 1997.

Starting head coach: Bo Schembechler

Michigan coach Bo Schembechler with running back Glenn Doughty during the 1969 UM OSU game.

The father of modern Michigan football, Schembechler’s tradition lives on today. The football building is named after him, ‘The Team, The Team, The Team,’ continues to be a mantra. His 1969 upset victory over Ohio State still serves as the benchmark for the program, as does his ensuing 10-year war vs. Woody Hayes. He’s the obvious choice for starting head coach.

Backup head coach: Fielding H. Yost

Fielding H. Yost on his 67th birthday with Univerity of Michigan field house in back, April 29, 1938. (AP Photo)

A head coach and later athletic director in Ann Arbor, Yost is essentially the father of Michigan football, the man who put the Wolverines on the map at the turn of the century. He coached the maize and blue from 1901-23 and again in 1925-26. He won six national championships as the head coach and 10 Big Ten championships as well.

Starting offensive coordinator: Calvin Magee

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Though the RichRod years are much maligned, for good reason, there was one bright spot: the offense. With Denard Robinson running the show at quarterback, Michigan football had an exciting, explosive offense, ranked No. 8 in the country in 2010, under Magee’s tutelage. Magee passed away in May 2022.

Backup offensive coordinator: Mike DeBord

Photo: Robert Scheer / Indianapolis Star

Michigan football fans will assuredly hate this one, but DeBord oversaw some of the more notable offenses in Ann Arbor under Lloyd Carr. No one will likely write home about the national championship season offense in 1997, but he had Tom Brady as his quarterback in 1998 and 1999, and oversaw the prolific 2006 attack.

Starting defensive coordinator: Jim Hermann

The defensive coordinator overseeing perhaps Michigan’s best-ever defense in 1997, Hermann continued to coach the defense until 2005. A good majority of the players on our all-time defense were coached by the Wolverine assistant who was in Ann Arbor in some capacity from 1985-2005.

Backup defensive coordinator: Lloyd Carr

Photo: Isaiah Hole

We’re somewhat cheating here, as Carr is also a national championship-winning head coach, but the longtime Michigan assistant-turned-coach oversaw some incredible defenses from 1987-94, coaching under Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller.

Starting assistant coach 1: Jerry Hanlon

Michigan has had some prolific offensive linemen and quarterbacks in the Bo Schembechler era. And Hanlon oversaw most of them. He was the OL coach from 1969-81 and 1988-91, and worked with the quarterbacks from 1982-87. He directly coached and developed Dan Dierdorf, Reggie McKenzie, and Jim Harbaugh — all of whom are on our best-of list.

Backup assistant coach 1: Brady Hoke

Brady Hoke
Brady Hoke

Michigan coach Brady Hoke yells at his team during a game against Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

An eventual Michigan head coach from 2011-14, Hoke was the defensive line coach in Ann Arbor during the national championship season, 1997. He continued to coach the unit until 2002, and was a solid recruiter — he was responsible for bringing in Tom Brady.

Starting assistant coach 2: Scot Loeffler

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A former Michigan quarterback, Loeffler was a student assistant during the national championship run in 1997, a grad assistant during the Tom Brady era, and then oversaw Jon Navarre and Chad Henne in Ann Arbor. An overall solid track record. He’s currently the head coach of Bowling Green.

Backup assistant coach 2: Erik Campbell

Photo: Isaiah Hole

“Soup” played safety and wide receiver under Bo Schembechler, coached so many prolific wide receivers under Lloyd Carr (nearly every one on our list), and returned to Ann Arbor when Jim Harbaugh took over in 2015 — albeit for just one year. He’s currently coaching wide receivers for Scot Loeffler in Bowling Green.

Starting assistant 3: Fred Jackson

A prolific coach in Ann Arbor, Fred Jackson coached the running backs from 1992-2014, having coached everyone from Tyrone Wheatley and Tim Biakabutuka, to Chris Perry and Mike Hart. He’s recently returned to Ann Arbor as an offensive analyst.

Backup assistant 3: Tyrone Wheatley

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Wheatley only had two short years as the running backs coach, but he improved the unit greatly in those two seasons. After a three-year stint as the head coach at Morgan State, he returned to the NFL, where he coaches running backs for the Denver Broncos.

Starting assistant coach 4: Vance Bedford

Bedford had two stints in Ann Arbor, most recently being a single year (2007), but most notably, he coached defensive backs from 1995-98. He gets the nod for coaching Charles Woodson, alone.

Backup assistant 4: Greg Mattison

Photo: Isaiah Hole

In what will easily be the most controversial add here, Mattison deserves his due. He coached defensive line in Ann Arbor from 1992-94 under Gary Moeller, became Lloyd Carr’s defensive coordinator for his first two years, returned to the program under Brady Hoke in 2011, accepted a demotion back to defensive line coach when Jim Harbaugh arrived in 2015, and generally had units that excelled and thrived. Where he becomes controversial is that he left the program, twice, for rival programs — Notre Dame in 1997 and Ohio State in 2019.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire