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Published: Wednesday, 9/29/2010

Left tackle getting noticed at Michigan

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR - To understand why Taylor Lewan is a good fit to play left tackle, you might watch his nimble feet or gawk at his wide torso.

Or maybe you'd look at his finger.

The eccentric University of Michigan redshirt freshman has a tattoo of wavy lines on the outside of his right index finger, apparently for the sole purpose of entertaining others by resting that finger above his upper lip to form a mustache.

What does that have to do with Lewan's affinity for left tackle?

"I like attention. I'm an attention guy," he said. "Playing offensive line, you're not going to get any, but playing left tackle you might get some here and there. So I'm trying."

Lewan of Scottsdale, Ariz., is beginning to receive attention after making his first career start last Saturday against Bowling Green.

Coach Rich Rodriguez said Lewan "played pretty well" in the blowout win but stopped short of saying he'll start again this Saturday when the 19th ranked Wolverines open Big Ten play at Indiana.

Junior Mark Huyge, with whom Lewan battled throughout the spring and fall camp, started the Wolverines' first three games but was benched during the game against Massachusetts in favor of Lewan.

Lewan is correct in his assessment of left tackle as a somewhat glamorous position. It's a testosterone-heavy job in which one is regularly locked into individual battles with opposing defensive ends.

If the tackle makes a false move or is slow to move off of the whistle, it could result in a pass rusher getting a free shot at the quarterback. The 2009 film The Blind Side in part focuses on the evolvement of the position in recent years from just another spot along the line to being the proverbial body guard of a right handed quarterback.

A left tackle has been selected in the top five picks of each of the past five NFL drafts. In 2008, the Miami Dolphins grabbed Michigan's Jake Long with the first overall pick. Lewan wears the same No. 77 jersey that Long wore at UM, but that actually has nothing to do with Lewan seeking the spotlight.

"My dad, he was a huge fan," Lewan said. "In high school, he's like, you've got 77. I didn't realize [why] I was wearing that. He told me after the season, by the way, you're wearing that because of Jake Long."

Lewan met Long during a UM home game last year and was dumbfounded by Long's massive 6-foot-7, 317-pound body, noting "He's a very large individual. I had my shoulder pads on and he was still wider than me."

For now, any comparisons in ability between Lewan and Long are premature. But in terms of size, Lewan is catching up. Due to a full year in UM's weight training program, he has packed on nearly 35 pounds and now stands at 6-8, 294.

Lewan has earned a reputation as one of the team's most physical players in practice and has admittedly struggled to find a middle ground between being nasty and being excessive.

"He'll be the first one to tell you I've probably given him the most flack out of anybody else on the team," defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said. "When he came here at 260, I told him you'll never play here. You might as well start learning tight end. I think it was motivating for him and he's playing really well right now.

"He's a very physical player, sometimes overly physical to the point me and him have probably exchanged blows a couple of times in practice. We still hang out afterwards. We get along, but he's a physical player."

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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