December 27, 2013

Lewan delivers blunt messages

Fifth-year senior captain Taylor Lewan has seen it all in a Michigan uniform. He wants to go out a winner, and has some blunt, unwavering advice for the rookie who has to help the Wolverines get there.

Michigan players are all supportive of true freshman quarterback Shane Morris, who is stepping in for the injured Devin Gardner against Kansas State. That includes Lewan, but he's not afraid to deliver some tough love to the rookie, privately and publicly.

Lewan insisted he's seen Morris grow up from a high school phenomenon and U-M rookie worrying about the number of Twitter followers he has to a triggerman more concerned about leading. At the same time, it's a tough, tough game, Lewan has stressed, and the quarterback spot features no lack of hard knocks.

"Shane, when he gets hit, man, it comes with the territory," insisted one of those who will provide the protection on Saturday night. "He's got to understand that. If it doesn't feel good, you have to move on. You have to understand you have the whole team counting on you.

"It's not just about Shane, it's about 11 guys. I know there's going to be a lot of scrutiny, a lot of pressure that the media puts on him. If he doesn't focus on that, focuses on what he needs to focus on, he'll be fine."

It certainly didn't feel good for Devin Gardner, who played part of the second half of the Ohio State game with a fractured foot. That opened the door for Morris, although it's ironic Gardner got injured in a game featuring perhaps the best effort of the year by Michigan's offensive line.

For Lewan, emphasizing to the younger linemen that they can play like they did against OSU is everything, in the days leading up to his final game in a Michigan uniform.

"That's exactly what it was," Lewan noted. "You're playing a team that at the time was ranked No. 3 in the nation. All of a sudden we come in and play the way we did. It shows a lot about the fight in this team.

"I said it after the Northwestern game, this team is always going to fight. We'll get hit in the face and hit right back."

They'll have to hit back, Lewan insisted, against a Kansas State defensive front that will be looking to put plenty of pressure on Morris.

"They're extremely consistent, hard-working, fighting guys," Lewan said. "That's what makes a great defensive line. They may not be the most athletic guys at the end of the day, but they work as hard as they can. They'll keep coming over and over and beat you into the ground."

Plus, Lewan noted, from the film he's watched, Kansas State has gotten better over the course of the season.

"You can see it in the last six games," he said. "Their turnover ration is plus-nine. They've scored 72 points in the fourth quarter and their opponents have only scored 31. Those things are through improvement.

"They have a defensive lineman Player of the Year, and all that stuff is improving, week-in and week-out. We might have improved throughout the season until our last game, so we'll try to be as successful as possible on Saturday."

Staying true to the end, Lewan waved off any great emotion on his part, regarding the close of his Michigan career. Given that, as Brady Hoke says, the Wolverines are 11 points away from being 11-1, the senior does want to finish well.

"It's huge," Lewan said. "This is a team that plays extremely well in the fourth quarter, Kansas State. We've done a good job throughout the year of getting consistently better. But we've fallen short a couple of times.

"It's very important … obviously, you want to go out with a win. It's great for the seniors, and putting the next team in position."

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