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December 7, 2012

Taylor Lewan looks ahead to Jadeveon Clowney matchup

In 2005, former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson made headlines by taping a motivational list of the cornerbacks he would be facing every week inside his locker room.

You won't see any shenanigans like the "Who Covers 85 In '05" list from redshirt junior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, even as he prepares for perhaps the biggest individual test of his career.

Lewan will square off against South Carolina sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney - one of the best defensive players in the country - when the Wolverines and Gamecocks play in the Outback Bowl Jan. 1.

"I don't want to change the way I play the game to go against someone," Lewan said. "I have to do what my coaches tell me to do and work on my technique and fundamentals and play as hard as I can in between the whistles. Hopefully, I'll be successful doing that.

"At the end of the day, it's not an individual matchup. Obviously, he and I will have our battles here and there, but there are times when I have the three-technique going up to linebackers. We have screen plays. There are a lot of different things. It's not like it's going to be one-on-one all the time. It's about the University of Michigan and South Carolina. It's not about Taylor Lewan and J.D. Clowney."

Although Lewan is trying to downplay the hype surrounding the upcoming clash at the end of the line of scrimmage, which will pit the Big Ten Offensive Lineman Of The Year against the national Ted Hendricks Defensive End Of The Year.

Both Lewan and Clowney were also honored with Walter Camp first-team All-American distinctions, too.

"He is a phenomenal player," Lewan said. "I know he has done a great job. He had 13.5 sacks, 23 tackles for loss. He has done a great job, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to play against him."

When a reporter noted that Lewan had memorized Clowney's statistics, Lewan quipped, "Well, yeah. They're big numbers."

"He plays with a motor," Lewan said. "He plays very fast, strong. He can shift. He likes to swim a lot, get your hands of him. He's fast, too. He brings a lot of things to the table, in both the run and pass game."

Note: Lewan impressed by young linemen

Lewan - like the vast majority of offensive linemen who earn a scholarship at a big-time school - spent his first season in Ann Arbor on the bench, redshirting and learning from upperclassmen.

He knows what the transition from high school to college is like, even for the most talented rookie linemen.

"It's tough," Lewan said. "When you're in high school, you don't really know. It might be the coaching; it might be the way you've developed since then. Everyone develops at different times in their life. When you're 18-22, especially, you learn so much better, especially when it comes to football.

"With offensive lineman, in high school you just find of put your body on someone. You're going against guys who are 175 pounds, so you're going to put your body on someone and they're going to move. Coming up, you learn that technique, because everyone is bigger, stronger faster. You learn to base block, how to take the first step, all the different things to be successful."

Although coaches and players have all said they're optimistic about the young offensive linemen on the roster - including freshman Kyle Kalis, Ben Braden and Eric Magnuson - their season off the field has been invaluable.

"Strength and leverage [are the most important things you learn]," Lewan said. "If you keep your hands inside, it'll help. Everything comes to the point - it's all about where you put your hat, how you get leverage. If you get in between the shoulder pads and press them out, you're going to be successful in a run-blocking situation. Pass protection is all about patience.

"I'm still learning every day. Every single day, I'm learning more and more. I'm not perfect. I'll lose sometimes - you have to get better every single day. You can never think you're right where you need to be, otherwise you're going to get beat."

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