Michigan football pays the bills, butters the bread and greases the wheel. Either way, Michigan football is king. This is why when the off-season arrives, we still have to talk about it. Obviously, Jim Harbaugh’s situation is the elephant in the room right now, but with no concrete new updates to report, we need to get a little creative every now and then.
As the NFL playoffs begin this week as the NBA season is in full swing, I saw a random tweet asking which NBA players would make good football players. It sparked some interesting discussions and I immediately thought of former Michigan basketball players who would make great football players. So without further ado, here’s a starting offense and defense using Michigan basketball players dating back to the 1980s (when I was alive).
QB – Trey Burke
One of the best to have done so at Michigan, Burke embodies everything you expect from a quarterback – leadership, moxie, determination, competitiveness, a high IQ and the “it” factor. Just consider transferring Burke’s many clutch shots, opportune plays, scrappy encounters and incredible vision from hardwood to grill. I just have a feeling he would win a lot more than he would lose. I don’t know how far he can throw a football, but he was a hell of a shooter at Michigan and if he had to use his legs, he’s fast, quick and very decisive. I would let him lead my attack anytime.
RB – Frankie Collins
At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Collins looks like a running back. He has big, strong legs, really knows how to get down, and is extremely explosive as both a runner and a jumper. As a leader, he has good vision and also knows how to value the ball. I really like Collins’ build and his willingness to go to the basket as traits I would like in my running back.
WR – Charles Matthews
Matthews obviously transferred to Michigan, but he’s become a fan favorite because of his athleticism and his rebound — two things all wide receivers should possess. At 6-6, 205 pounds, Matthews can fly, both on the ground and in the air. He also has big hands as evidenced by his ability to catch lobs. It would be a problem outside.
WR – Tim Hardaway Jr.
Another 6-6, 205-pounder, Hardaway Jr. can also really run and has a great rebound. He’s a bit more muscular than Matthews, which makes him the perfect compliment. He could be a deep threat with Matthews or set up as a possession guy who makes plays after the catch.
Slot machine – Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman
It’s fun to think of MAAR on the football field because he might be the fastest guy on this whole list. Obviously, as a basketball player, he’s a bit tall for a slots receiver, but at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, he has incredible speed and quickness and always puts it on display. like a slasher who could reach the rim at will. These characteristics would probably make it excellent in and out of its breaks and after the catch on short and intermediate routes.
TE – Mitch McGary
At 6-10, 255 pounds, McGary is a unit. He has a tall build, big feet, soft hands, and plenty of athleticism for his height. With such a skill set, he’s basically Travis Kelce, right? Ok, maybe he’s not that athletic, but as a tight end he would be hard to handle. It would be interesting to see if he could block as it definitely looks like he would be able to run routes and catch the ball consistently.
LT – Jon Teske
It gets a little tricky with linemen because these dudes are so big, but isn’t it fun to imagine the 7-1, 265-pound Teske protecting Trey Burke’s blindside with monstrous kicks and those long arms? Teske doesn’t have the fastest feet in the world, but it would be hard for any top runner to get around someone that long.
LG – Ricky Doyle
Doyle ended his career on the Gulf Coast of Florida, but during his time in Michigan he showed he could be a strong, wide body at the post. At 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds with those big, broad shoulders, he would make a great inside lineman. He might have to pack an extra 40 or 50 pounds, but he has the frame to do it.
C – Max Bielfeldt
Do you remember Max Bielfeldt? Do you remember Max Bielfeldt’s calves? I don’t know if he’s ever busted a ball in his life, but at 6-8, 245 pounds and with those tree trunk legs, I’m sure he could move some people off the line. He finished his basketball career in Indiana, but would be great fun to watch in Michigan with the winged helmet.
Big. Country. I actually had Davis in a few different places when building this team, but I quickly realized there just wasn’t a lot of beef on basketball rosters, so the guard is where it lands. At 6-10, 250 pounds, he’s got a big build, and according to every post player who’s ever played him, he’s as strong as an ox. Davis has never been touted as a great athlete, so guarding suits him better than tackling, even though he actually looks like young OTs before the bulk.
RT – Terry Mills
Mills was listed at 6-10, 230 pounds at Michigan, but jumped to 280 in the NBA. If we’re talking about taking T Mills at his peak, he’d be damned as big as some college offensive tackles. He’s not very fast, but he has long arms, a tall build, and fairly strong feet. Again, these dudes are all tall as hell and not terribly beefy, but it’s still kind of fun to think about how their skills would translate.
DE – Chris Webber
For obvious reasons, Webber might be the most intriguing player on this list. He is 6-foot-9 and weighs 245 pounds, is very athletic and restless, with long arms and huge hands. He has a defensive ending written all over him. Think how good he would be at hitting balls if he couldn’t make it home. In fact, I’d love to see a first C Webb go through rush drills. It would probably be damn effective.
DT – Robert Traylor
If Webber is the most intriguing, Traylor could be the no-nonsense greatest. While at Michigan, Traylor checked in at around 6-8, 285 pounds, but he topped 300 pounds after his college career. He was always portrayed as a very quick and athletic big man and impressed people with his brilliance, not just because of his height but because of his build. Tractor Traylor was overweight for a basketball player, but he made it because he was a rare athlete. Looks like a professional defensive tackle all day.
Rest in peace, tractor.
DE – Jordan Morgan
When Morgan came to Michigan he didn’t look like much, but by the time he finished at UM he was 250 pounds at 6-8. He’s not as athletic as Webber, but he’s close and he’s just as tall. He always ran the floor really well for a big guy and had a knack for punching guys way bigger than him. If he could do these things on the football field, he would rack up sacks in a hurry.
OLB – DeShawn Sims
I decided to go with a 3-4 base defense because there really isn’t anyone else who can play inside a defensive line. That means four linebackers, including 6-8, 235-pound DeShawn Sims. In a 3-4, it’s the Aidan Hutchinson type, David Ojabo, so Sims qualifies. He was one more athlete with long arms and fluid body control. If he hits hard in the weight room to prepare for football, he could probably weigh in at 265 pounds and look quite like Hutchinson.
MLB – Chaundee Brown
Of everyone on this list, Chaundee Brown may look the most like a football player. Brown weighs 6-5 and 215 pounds of muscle. He’s always played tenacious defense at Michigan and had no problem stepping in and taking charge. He can run, jump, move side to side and has always had strong hands. These are all very good traits for a middle linebacker.
MLB – Zack Novak
I mean, look at this picture, you don’t have that guy on your football team.
At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Novak is a pretty good size for a middle linebacker and, as all Michigan fans remember, he had no problem taking on guys much, much bigger than him. . He’s tough, smart, rambling, and a very good leader. He’s the kind of guy you want in the middle of your defense to make calls, pick up guards and full-backs and stick his face in the range.
OLB – Ray Jackson
Jackson was one of the last people I put on the team because frankly I had forgotten how big he was. At 6-6, 220 pounds, he’s big enough to play the hybrid/peak role. Jackson was the unsung member of the Fab Five but he was really good at everything on the basketball court. He’s strong, smart, athletic and can really defend. It’s the kind of skill that translates well to a hybrid linebacker in today’s world of football.
CB – Derrick Walton
I like cornerbacks who are like Walton – 6-0, 190 pounds, long arms, quick feet and hands, fiery, smart, tough and always up for a challenge. Walton was never the most advertised guy on the court, but he acted like he was. That’s how cornerbacks should play. They are often left on islands against some of the best athletes on the field and have to rise to the occasion. I would trust Walton to do just that.
CB – Zavier Simpson
The same goes for Simpson. I remember when Simpson took over as point guard from Walton, I thought they were very similar players in terms of height and general disposition. Walton was better on offense, while Simpson was more of a dog on defense, but both could do both at a high level. Because of that, I think Simpson might be a bit more wired for football. In my opinion it is a bit grainier but not as long or smooth. He’s just as athletic and has a lot of the same qualities as Walton, but in terms of pursuit. Between the two, I see Walton being more of a true cover type, while Simpson would be more physical, clingy, and awkward. I like both types of corners.
FS – Glenn Robinson III
I like the idea that the GR3 goes through the deep part of my secondary. At 6-6, 220 pounds with an upright of about 45 inches, I can see him being extremely lanky and able to climb and make special plays. We know he has good timing when it comes to getting the ball high because we’ve seen him do it on alley oops and as a rebounder. I don’t know how physical he would be, but he has Ballhawk written all over him.
King has many of the same qualities as Robinson when it comes to height (6-foot-5, 210 pounds) and athletic ability. He probably can’t jump that high, but he can absolutely run and take off with the best of them. I like it at strong security because it has that grimy feel. King is a scrapper and would have no problem knocking someone out if he got to midfield. Couple that mentality with the ability to make plays on the ball and you have your starting security.