1... Jake Long OT, Michigan
One of the most decorated offensive linemen in the storied history of the Michigan program, the two-time team captain became the first Wolverine and only the fourth player ever to garner Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors in consecutive seasons.
By doing so, Long joined Ohio State's Orlando Pace (1995-96) and Korey Stringer (1993-94) and Michigan State's Tony Mandarich (1987-88).
The senior offensive tackle gave Michigan three Offensive Lineman of the Year awards in the last four seasons, as David Baas was honored in 2004. Other Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honorees from Michigan include guard Steve Hutchinson (2000) and tackles Jon Jansen (1998) and Greg Skrepenak (1991).
Even though their hopes for a national title were dashed in an upset loss to Division 1-AA Appalachian State in their season opener, the Wolverines were grateful that their offensive leader returned to the playing field for the 2007 season. After his junior campaign, Long was seriously considering filing early for the NFL Draft. Being very close to tailback Mike Hart, both juniors made the decision to return for their final campaign.
"It was best for me and for the team to stay another year," Long said. "I looked into it a little bit, but I never was close to leaving. I really want my degree, and we have unfinished business as a team." Apparently, Hart was prepared to follow Long into the NFL a year early, too. "When we were making our decision last year, he came up to me and said if I'm leaving, then he's going to leave,'' Long said at the Big Ten Conference 2007 preseason convention.
"If I stay, then he's going to stay.'' As he spoke, Long glanced at the table in the Hyatt Regency Hotel meeting room where Hart was surrounded by reporters. "You can't lose your right tackle (and) lose your left tackle and come back and have the same season you had the year before,'' Hart noted.
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr admitted he had his doubts at a certain stage in the decision-making process.
"Jake Long, I thought at one point was going to leave. I always meet with the seniors the Monday after Ohio State to talk about what their plans are, because it impacts recruiting. Jake Long, on that day, he was undecided (whether to turn pro),'' Carr recalled. "But when he came back, the first reason, he said, 'I'm just not ready to leave college and my teammates.' That speaks to who he is. How many guys would turn that down? ... Mike Hart, he never hesitated. Henne talked about graduating and a championship. You want guys like that.''
Long decided to protect himself financially in case he got hurt before the league's 2008 draft arrives. After getting guidance from recruiting coordinator Chris Singletary - who previously worked with the sports agent firm IMG - Long purchased an insurance policy. "(I did it) just so I can go out there and not worry about getting injured,'' he said. "I just go out there and focus on football and not worry about the repercussions of getting hurt.''
At Lapeer East High School, Long was a three-year starter on the offensive line. He was ranked the 17th-best player on the Detroit Free Press Best of the Midwest team and rated the 22nd-best offensive lineman in the nation by Collegefootballnews.com. Prep Football Report rated Long the 12th-best offensive tackle in the country and he was ranked as the 21st-best offensive tackle by Rivals100.com, who gave him a four-star prospect grade.
Max Emfinger's Recruiting Service rated Long the nation's fifth-best offensive tackle, as he earned All-American and All-Midwest honors from Super Prep. He was ranked as the second-best player in Michigan on the Detroit News Blue Chip list and named to Prep Star's All-Midwest Region squad. He was also selected to the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and Lansing State Journal Dream Team squads, as he became the first player in school history to earn All-State first-team honors.
An all-conference first-team offensive and defensive tackle as a junior and senior, he also earned All-State honorable mention as a junior. On offense, he did not allow any quarterback sacks in three seasons as a starter, grading over 90% for blocking consistency throughout his career. As a defensive tackle, he recorded 213 tackles with eleven sacks, 38 stops for losses and nine forced fumbles.
Long posted 91 tackles with four sacks as a senior and delivered 72 tackles and four sacks during his junior season. He rushed for three touchdowns as a fullback during his junior campaign and added another touchdown as a senior. He also lettered in baseball as a first baseman, setting the school home run and RBI records as a junior. He was also the starting center on basketball team, as he broke the school record for shooting percentage during his junior year (62.3 percent).
Long enrolled at Michigan with much fanfare in 2003, but was forced to spend the season on the scout team. He appeared in 12 games for the Wolverines in 2004. Even though he began his collegiate career as a reserve left tackle, he went on to start the final ten games at right tackle. He earned All-Big Ten Conference second-team honors from the league's coaches as a redshirt freshman. He also picked up Scripps/Football Writers Association of America, The Sporting News and Rivals.com Freshman All-American recognition.
As a sophomore, Long saw his 2005 season delayed by spring shoulder surgery. He missed the team's first seven games before returning in a reserve role at right tackle vs. Iowa. He would then move into the starting lineup for the Wolverines' final four contests, but was also hampered by foot and ankle injuries.
Fully recovered from shoulder problems, Long went on to establish himself among the nation's elite left offensive tackles in 2006. The team co-captain earned American Football Coaches Association, Walter Camp Football Foundation, Football Writers Association of America, Rivals.com and Sports Illustrated All-American first-team honors.
Named All-Big Ten and the league's Offensive Lineman of the Year, Long also picked up Hugh R. Rader Jr. Memorial Award honors (Michigan's top offensive lineman) and was a David Brandon Leadership Award co-recipient with LaMarr Woodley. The Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award candidate graded 87.0% for blocking consistency, as he allowed just two quarterback sacks and posted 128 knockdowns with 15 touchdown-resulting blocks for an offense that averaged 370.8 yards per game.
Honors continued to pour in for Long throughout the 2007 season, as he again earned All-Big Ten Conference first-team and league Offensive Player of the Year accolades. He finished second in the voting for both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award, as he picked up consensus All-American first-team recognition.
Long paced an offense that averaged 373.5 yards per game, despite key injuries that sidelined quarterback Chad Henne and running back Mike Hart for a good portion of the first half of the campaign. He would register 119 knockdowns with 18 touchdown-resulting blocks, leading Big Ten blockers with an 87.85% grade for blocking consistency. He would close out his career with 40 starting assignments, including a string of 30 consecutive starts.
• Pick No. 32: Miami Dolphins select Phillip Merling, DE, Clemson
Pro analysis: Miami's off to a good start by reeling in Merling, expected to be a first-rounder in most quarters. He should be effective as a DE in Miami's 3-4 look ... and if everything pans out just right (and his hernia surgery doesn't pose long-term problems), Merling could draw comparisons to Richard Seymour.
57... Chad Henne QB Michigan
64... Traded to Detroit for picks #76 and #176
66... From Detroit - Kendall Langford DE Hampton
100... Traded to Dallas for LB Akin Ayodele and TE Anthony Fasano
110... from Bears Shawn Murphy OG Utah State
126... Traded to Dallas for DE Jason Ferguson.
176... Jalen Parmrle RB Toledo
195... Acquired from Dallas in swap of 6th round picks for Jason Ferguson.
Donald Thomas OG Ucon
204... Lex Hillard RB Montana
245... Lionel Dotson DE Arizona