You don’t become the winningest program in college football by only receiving contributions from your upperclassmen. Instead, young players need to step up. Such was the case in Ann Arbor, with the most recent data point coming from linebacker Junior Colson, who was named a Freshman All-American in 2021.
But what about those who have changed the game so much that they are considered among the best first-year players in the history of the sport?
ESPN’s resident numbers guru and analyst Bill Connelly has compiled a list of the 50 best freshman seasons of all time, and two former Michigan football players made the cut, starting with a player who has ended up being a four-year-old starter at most. important position in the field.
41. QB Chad Henne, Michigan (2004)
He never really improved – his passer rating was between 130 and 143 for the four years of his career – but Henne was a smash hit from the start. The blue-chipper from Reading, Pa. threw for 2,743 yards and 25 touchdowns and led the Wolverines to a 9-3 season. In a classic Rose Bowl loss to Texas, he faced Vince Young, throwing for 227 yards and four touchdowns.
Admittedly, Henne never really found much other gear, simply acting as an above-average quarterback throughout his tenure. But considering he was able to come in and have the kind of performance he did as a true freshman in such a demanding position, it’s something to savor.
Of course, the other player mentioned is a GOAT in his own right, the only defensive-minded player to ever win the Heisman Trophy.
34. CB Charles Woodson, Michigan (1995)
You don’t become the only defensive player in 60 years to win the Heisman Trophy if you don’t start getting attention right away. A record rusher from Ohio, Woodson came to Michigan to play defense and became a first stringer almost instantly. He had five assists in his freshman season, including two in a 31-23 rivalry win over Ohio State.
Naturally, Woodson’s junior season was his crowning glory, as it was the year he won the nation’s best player award, upsetting Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning for the award.
While that kind of greatness is something all players aspire to, for Michigan to repeat last year’s success, it will definitely need a freshman or two to play at such a level that it will claim to be on this list in the future.