The Wolverine

November 2011

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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T By John Borton aylor Lewan used to deposit defenders almost to the cacti in his home state of Arizona, blocking with such relentless ferocity he attracted more flags than the United Nations. ���My favorite Taylor story is him getting an ���excessive blocking��� penalty,��� noted teammate Craig Roh, who graduated with Lewan from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Ariz. ���In high school, he would drive guys 20 yards the opposite direction of the play. ���It was against our rival. It was exactly like the scene in ���The Blind Side.��� He drove a guy, took him over the fence, threw him, and got an ���excessive blocking��� penalty. That���s the only time I���ve ever seen that penalty, other than in ���The Blind Side.������ Lewan brought that take-no-prisoners attitude to Ann Arbor. Unfortunately, for someone talented enough to be protecting the Michigan quarterback���s blind side as a redshirt freshman, he brought the flags along with him. He���s huge (6-8, 302), gregarious and offbeat (how many carry a mustache tattoo on the side of their index finger, ready to position it above their upper lip at a moment���s notice?). Lewan admits he was a little out of control in his early efforts. He not only played beyond the whistle at times, he jumped snap counts in an eagerness to tangle with defenders. His particular brand of yellow hanky panky drew attention from the officials, and from Michigan���s new coaching staff. Head coach Brady Hoke studied player profiles prior to meeting with the Wolverines. While Hoke began with the clean slate for all, and made a rigorous effort to get to know each player individually, he didn���t enter the get-toknow-you conversations blind. ���He talked to us a little bit,��� Lewan recalled. ���He got to know us. He���s going to get to know the football part of us. That���s going to happen, being the football coach. ���But he wanted to get to know me a little bit. We talked, and a big concern was, what was the deal with the penalties?��� The deal, as Lewan sees it now, involved a little more youthful exuberance than the situation required. ���I can say it was all me being im28��� the wolverine��� ������ November 2011 mature,��� he said. ���Last year, I was a redshirt freshman. I was 19 years old ��� just young and dumb. I���m making excuses right now, but I was more focused on how well I can do, not how well the team can do. The coaches have really expressed, this is a team thing. It���s not about you.��� Fast-forward several months, and the difference is striking. Lewan still dishes out the punishment, but he starts with the snap and ends roughly when the whistle blows. ���He���s taken a lot of pride in not [getting flagged],��� Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges observed. ���He really has. I told Taylor I had heard about it, and saw some of it on the tape. He had some penalties I���m sure he regrets. goaded into retaliation, that would have been the moment. The fact that he wasn���t represented a major midterm exam passed. ���A couple of those things showed during Michigan State ��� and that���s all I have to say about that,��� Lewan commented. ���Self-control is big.��� Gholston coming unglued represents an extreme example, but the job of any lineman involves protecting the quarterback. Lewan figures one certain way to make that happen involves getting the attackers to attack him, rather than Denard Robinson. Lewan is constructed to take the punishment, whereas he���d like to see No. 16 off to the races. ���Number one, my job is to get you, the defender, to focus on me more Under Control Taylor Lewan Learns To Fight Without Flags ���I told him, our offense is set up for no penalties. We make it so that the way our cadence is, the way we snap the ball, we���ve been fortunate ��� we���ve never had a heavily penalized football team. He took that to heart. It���s a credit to him, it really is. He���s taken pride in the fact that he hasn���t made some things I���m sure he would term as stupid penalties. ���He���s been smart. He���s played smart. He���s getting better and better at it all the time.��� ���We understand that we���ve got to play the game with fundamentals, techniques and discipline, and have great poise and composure in how you play,��� Hoke added. Those traits were fully on display in East Lansing this year. Lewan found himself on the business end of a cage match-type arm bar from MSU defensive end William Gholston, and later absorbed a punch from the frustrated Spartan. The latter drew a personal foul, one of six the Spartans absorbed on the afternoon. Gholston wound up suspended for MSU���s next contest. If ever Lewan might have been than my quarterback and my running back,��� Lewan said. ���If you���re too busy getting mad at me and doing things to me, you���re not touching my quarterback. You���re doing things to me. ���I���d much rather be beat up than my quarterback and my running back. I can play beat up. I���m an offensive lineman ��� that���s what I���m supposed to do. Never healthy.��� He says it with a touch of pride. He talks about Michigan with more than just a touch. Lewan can deliver the maize-and-blue message like a PR staffer at a moment���s notice ��� 11 national championships, 42 Big Ten championships. He���ll tick off the numbers without hesitation. He���s no stranger to his forerunners, either. He���s yet to meet former AllAmerican Jake Long, but he���s seen more films starring Long than he has Adam Sandler flicks. ���Everyone talks about him, and he���s a guy I really want to get to meet,��� Lewan said. ���A lot of my game Lewan, a redshirt sophomore, has maintained his intensity this year while playing with an added maturity compared to last season. Photo by Lon Horwedel

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