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August 9, 2013
Wolverines build around experience at OT
Since last spring, when the Wolverines invited fans to The Big House to take in the spring game, fans have discussed and debated the future of the interior offensive line, as it transitions into 2013 with three new, young, heretofore untested players.
Redshirt freshmen Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden seem like the favorites to take over the two guard sports, vacated by Ricky Barnum and Patrick Omameh, who both graduated last year. Redshirt sophomore Jack Miller may win the job at center.
While the three interior spots go through intense competition and uncertainly, the tackle spots are all locked up. The Wolverines return both tackles from last year's offense - fifth-year seniors Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield - to lead the way.
"It definitely helps to have us out there," Schofield said. "We're trying to pass down our knowledge as much as we possibly can. Because we're the seniors, they're always asking us questions. They're eager to learn as much as they possibly can, taking it all in."
The Wolverines have - by far - the most tackle experience in the Big Ten between their two expected starters.
Although Lewan, a 2012 All-American selection who shirked the 2013 NFL Draft to come back for his final year of eligibility, grabs the headlines, Schofield has been a steady contributor for the Wolverines since the beginning of the 2011 season.
That year, Schofield moved down to guard, because a terrible lack of depth left a big hole inside and the Wolverines needed some help. After a season on the interior, Schofield bounced outside to right tackle in 2012 - back to his natural position.
"I have played tackle my whole entire life," Schofield said. "The one year I played guard was the only time I had ever done it. Tackle is my position, and that's where I feel the most comfortable.
"I do feel like I am underrated some times. This is going to be my third year as a starter, so I want to go out there and prove what I can do."
Schofield's personal goal is to garner all-conference honors this season - but he's also grateful that Lewan has received all the attention the last three years.
"I am kind of a shy guy, in general," Schofield said. "I don't really mind not being in the spotlight. I like that Taylor is in the spotlight, and I can just kind of sit back. He is always in the spotlight, and I'm always behind. I come from a really big family, so I'm used to sharing."
Between Lewan (35 career starts) and Schofield (23 career starts), the Wolverines have the most veteran tackle duo in the conference.
Here's how the conference's tackles break down:
Left tackle: Taylor Lewan, 35 starts
Right tackle: Michael Schofield: 23 starts
Total starts: 58
Left tackle: Brent Qvale, 13 starts
Right tackle: Jeremiah Sirles, 28 starts
Total starts: 41
Left tackle: Ed Olson, 27 starts
Right tackle: Josh Campion, 13 starts
Total starts: 40
4. Michigan State
Left tackle: Dan France, 24 starts
Right tackle: Fou Fonoti, 13 starts
Total starts: 37
Left tackle: Ryan Groy, 20 starts
Right tackle: Rob Havenstein, 15 starts
Total starts: 35
Left tackle: Jason Spriggs, 12 starts
Right tackle: Peyton Eckert, 18 starts
Total starts: 30
7. Ohio State
Left tackle: Jack Mewhort, 25 starts
Right tackle: Taylor Decker, zero starts
Total starts: 25
Left tackle: Brandon Sherff, 10 starts
Right tackle: Brett Van Sloten, 12 starts
Total starts: 22
Left tackle: Kevin Pamphile, nine starts
Right tackle: Justin Kitchens, 13 starts
Total starts: 22
Left tackle: Jack Konopka, 13 starts
Right tackle: Paul Jorgensen, one start
Total starts: 14
Left tackle: Simon Cvijanovic, 13 starts
Right tackles: Corey Lewis, zero starts
Total starts: 13
12. Penn State
Left tackle: Donovan Smith, nine starts
Right tackle: Adam Gress, three starts
Total starts: 12 starts
That kind of experience on the ends is certainly helping the interior linemen along.
"I am surprised at how quickly they pick things up sometimes," Schofield said. "When I was a redshirt freshman, I definitely didn't know the offense that well. They are coming in, making calls, it's great.
"Kalis, for example, has definitely improved. His overall knowledge of the game has gotten better. He is actually starting to make some calls, which he never would have done in the spring. His pad level, pass protection - it's improving every day."