Future of Michigan's embattled offensive line bolstered by Taylor Lewan's return
ANN ARBOR -- Taylor Lewan shocked with his decision to forgo certain riches and return to Michigan for his senior season.
And, suddenly, the outlook for the Wolverines' battered offensive line seems much sunnier than originally expected.
The unit underachieved throughout the 2012 season, and now loses all three interior starting offensive linemen to graduation -- left guard Ricky Barnum, center Elliott Mealer and right guard Patrick Omameh.
All indications were Lewan, a top-15 NFL prospect, would join the exodus. But now, instead of replacing four starters mostly -- perhaps exclusively -- with underclassmen, Michigan must replace only three and returns quality senior tackles in Lewan and Michael Schofield.
That bolsters the line's chances of improving upon its dismal 2012 season and breathes life into Michigan's Big Ten title hopes in 2013.
There's still that matter of three open spots in the middle, though, and the replacements are expected to include no player older than a redshirt sophomore.
That's one reason Lewan elected to stay.
"There's a tradition of great offensive lines here, and I have no doubt in my mind this offensive line will be successful if we do the things we have to do in the offseason," Lewan said. "We have younger guys, and that's one of my biggest reasons for coming back, is to help these guys.
"Our goal is the Big Ten championship, and I know coming back and pushing and doing all the things we need to do, we can definitely win the Big Ten championship."
Redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis was a five-star recruit out of Ohio, and coaches and players are high on his practice performances. He is a leader to start at one guard spot.
The other guard could go to redshirt freshman Blake Bars, sophomore Chris Bryant or possibly junior Joey Burzynski, the latter of whom made a push to start at left guard this year.
Sophomore Jack Miller seems to be the leader at center, with sophomore Graham Glasgow also a candidate.
Lewan's return not only provides leadership for those guys, it also allows redshirt freshmen tackles Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson another year of seasoning before they're thrust into action. One likely would have started had Lewan departed.
While some figured the rebuilding project on the offensive line would encourage Lewan to leave, the opposite appears true. He's here to see this thing through.
"When you got guys like (freshmen) Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson, those guys, I want to be a part of their lives for one more year and help them to develop into something that they could possibly be in my position in a couple years," Lewan said.
"There really was no doubt in my mind, at the end of it, that I had to be back at the University of Michigan one more year. We can win the Big Ten title."
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