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Published: Sunday, 7/29/2012

UM freshmen face more complex life

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CHICAGO -- Nobody ever told Taylor Lewan what mentality to take into his first year of playing college football. Given that he'd been told in high school that he wouldn't make it as a college football player, much less as a converted offensive lineman, Lewan played football with only one attitude -- go 100 percent and go as hard as possible.

It's the same mentality he would share with Michigan's incoming freshmen, if he had one thing to tell them about what to expect when they join the program.

"When you come into college, it's way more complex than high school," Lewan said. "You're not just playing high school football where you lay on somebody and they move out of the way. You have to have technique, and you have to have all these different things. But while you're learning that stuff, you just need to go."

Yet some incoming freshmen don't share a similar mindset. Likewise, there was a time when 17- or 18-year-old kids would go straight from a summer of leisure into a college football environment, which would create a rocky transition.

Michigan's football program, however, already has 30 incoming freshmen on campus. Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said it allows players to gain familiarity with the upperclassmen, to adjust to academics, and to get acclimated to a strength and conditioning program.

"In the old days, you had three days with the freshmen and the next day, all the veterans came in and it was kind of a culture shock," Hoke said.

During his first summer in Ann Arbor, safety Jordan Kovacs expected to have more free time. Instead, he was put into a regimented schedule that included team meetings, classes and weight-training sessions.

"There's not much of a break," the Clay graduate said. "A week here, or a week there, and you find the balance between school and football, and a social life, because you have all of them."

HOKE'S QUICK QUIPS: At one point during the media sessions, a reporter asked Hoke if there were questions he and Lewan, Kovacs and quarterback Denard Robinson were sick of being asked.

"There's probably about 25 to 50," Hoke quipped.

Hoke was also asked about having Urban Meyer coaching in the Big Ten at Ohio State and how it could affect the rivalry. Hoke said it wouldn't.

"He's not going to play a down, and I'm not going to play a down," Hoke said. "Thank God."

Robinson appreciated Hoke's candor. "He's someone who's going to be who he is, all the time," Robinson said.

CAUGHT ON FILM? Kovacs said that Michigan's only focus up to this point has been on the season opener Sept. 1 against Alabama in Arlington, Texas. Kovacs acknowledged, though, that he might have put a little too much focus on the game at one point this summer.

"I'm watching a lot of film on them," the safety said of the Alabama offense. "Maybe I shouldn't admit it, but I'm watching film when I'm in class. I'm sitting there, on the computer, and every now and then, you shake your head."

ON THE BOARD: Lewan is known among the Wolverines (and their media contingent) as having a rather sunny outlook on life. But the 6-foot-8, 310-pound offensive tackle also has another label: NFL-draft worthy.

In May, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper tabbed Lewan on his "Big Board," which ranks the top NFL draft prospects. Kiper listed Lewan as the No. 2 offensive tackle and the No. 12 player overall among 2013 NFL draft prospects.

The attention is already coming; Lewan acknowledged he's received phone calls from numbers he doesn't recognize, and he said he doesn't answer those calls.

In spite of that, Lewan remains grounded in regards to his long-term future and his final season at Michigan.

"It's a good problem to have," Lewan said. "But it's the preseason."

Not on the initial 25-player board -- at least not as a quarterback -- was Robinson. Kiper listed Robinson as the No. 5 prospect at wide receiver, but Robinson didn't comment directly on that projection or on his NFL prospects.

"What I have control over today is being the best quarterback at the University of Michigan," Robinson said.

CAMPBELL SENTENCED: ESPN.com reported that defensive tackle Will Campbell was sentenced in Washtenaw County 14th district court to three month's probation and a day of community service in a malicious destruction of property case.

In April, Campbell damaged a car in Ann Arbor after he slid across the car's hood. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge in a plea deal, and is required to pay restitution and court costs.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.



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