Michigan is 4-0. You can argue the merits of that 4-0 mark all you want. Has it been pretty? Nope. The wins over Akron and UConn felt more like great escapes than mighty triumph over lesser foes. Regardless, style points don’t matter. A win is a win is a win. And the Wolverines are unbeaten coming off a bye week. Stud Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan says that’s all that matters. And I’m not gonna argue with the 6-8, 315-pound senior from Cave Creek, Ariz.
Lewan knows his offense has work to do, that the unit is a work-in-progress. You don’t need to remind him about the issues on the interior of the line or the inconsistencies of quarterback Devin Gardner. Lewan says he and his teammates spent their off week focusing on themselves and getting amped for the Big Ten season, which starts Saturday for Michigan when it plays host to Minnesota in the Little Brown Jug game.
I caught up with Lewan as he prepped for the Gophers, a first step in what he hopes will be Michigan’s first Big Ten championship since 2004.
Q: What was the focus of the line during the bye week?
A: We got back to basics, fundamentals and techniques. That’s how the game is won in the trenches. You have to be aggressive at the point of take and get the line of scrimmage in your favor. That’s what we have been focusing on. There is so much tradition here along the offensive line and we want to live up to that. We have to get the job done up front beginning with Minnesota.
Q: What have you said to Devin Gardner during his tough times?
A: Being the only captain for the offense, it’s important that I talk to each guy. Talking to Devin, he’s an extremely confident player. I have a lot of confidence in him, and he’s one of the best quarterbacks I ever have seen play. It’s getting back to basics for him, too, just like us along the offensive line. He needs to get in rhythm with the receivers, know when their cuts and when they are going to happen, knowing the cadence, things a quarterback needs to do. He’s making progress, and I’m excited to see what he does in the Big Ten season.
Q: How frustrating were the last two game vs. Akron and at UConn?
A: They were frustrating at times. At the end of the day, we are 4-0. And there is no apologizing for being 4-0. The bye came at the right time.
Q: Given the fact the team struggled to win its last two games, would you have rather played last Saturday than been off?
A: Any Saturday in the fall, I want to be playing. I love playing games. But I think it was crucial for this team to get back to basics and focus. It gave us a chance to get things right on both sides of the ball. This week was needed.
Q: So, how did you spend last Saturday?
A: I spent my Saturday watching Minnesota film. I also watched Minnesota play Iowa, too. This is a full-time job for me, and that’s how I treat it.
Q: Are there any Minnesota players you are looking forward to competing against this Saturday?
A: The Minnesota defense is pretty good. They are No. 1 in the Big Ten when it comes to TFLs (tackles for loss). And we aren’t so great when it comes to giving up tackles for loss. Ra’Shede Hageman is a great player, a strong and powerful guy. He will line up at end sometimes. He can bull rush. It will be fun to play against him. They have some other good players who can run to the ball.
Q: Run block or pass block: Do you have a preference?
A: It doesn’t matter to me as long as we are moving the ball, getting first downs and scoring. Whatever the coaches want to call, I’ll execute it.
Q: Have you talked to any former Michigan offensive line greats like Jake Long or Jon Runyan during the season?
A: Not as much during the season. They have stuff going on. Steve Hutchinson is enjoying his first year of retirement. He came in after the Notre Dame and talked to the line. I talk to guys here and there, but I am focusing on our team now and our goal of winning the Big Ten.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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