July 27, 2012
Lewan grew into O-line challenges
Taylor Lewan confirms he's never seen a true freshman offensive lineman he thought was ready to play football at the Big Ten level. He's open to convincing, of course, but that's easier said than done.
There swirls around the buildup to Michigan's fall camp the anticipation of a heralded offensive line class, including one Kyle Kalis, who tips the scales at more than 300 pounds. He looks physically ready to play in the Big Ten.
Given Michigan's depth on the offensive line, Kalis will likely wind up in the two-deep. That doesn't assure playing time, and certainly doesn't mean Kalis would have an easy time stepping into an open spot on the offensive line.
Lewan could be an NFL prospect following the season, and he never played a down as a true freshman. Then again, he wasn't put together like some of Michigan's incoming blockers.
"Redshirting was the best thing that happened to me, initially," the redshirt junior noted. "I also came in at 250, 260 pounds. It was a good year for me to get my weight up, speed up and strength up. It was a good year to learn, watching Mark Ortmann and Steve Schilling, watching David Molk."
Lewan learned a lot, about technique, about engaging with defensive linemen far bigger, faster and stronger than those with whom he'd dealt before. He's improved plenty in the years that followed.
Not only does the fourth-year Wolverine win more than his share of match-ups against opposing defenders, he's earned a reputation as someone who can get them off their game. He's frustrating to go against, as one of the more technically savvy tackles in the Big Ten.
Defenders don't like him. They often want to take out their frustrations on him. Lewan welcomes all the attention, because it means it's not getting focused on No. 16.
"There's no greater feeling than taking someone, against their will, and moving them to a place they don't want to be," Lewan said. "That's a different type of feeling.
"It's not like scoring a touchdown, catching a pass or running the ball. But the feeling of someone just giving up
it's awesome. I love it."
Robinson doesn't mind it himself, and Lewan knows when the quarterback remains untouched, it's mission accomplished.
"If I can get someone to focus on me, rather than Denard, I've done my job," Lewan said. "I'd rather be the one to play with a broken wrist, or a broken ankle, than Denard. I can do that. I can play offensive line, and I can play injured. I did that all last year.
"The safer he is, and the safer my running backs are, the more beat up I am, I'll take that any day of the week."
Lewan noted Michigan's former offensive linemen didn't teach him that. They didn't have to, he said. He felt it, knowing that has been the expectation out of Michigan offensive linemen for a long time.
In other words, as talented and heralded as the rookies are, they've got a lot to learn, and it goes way beyond blocking schemes.
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