Taylor Lewan: 'There is no apologizing for being 4-0'

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

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.

[ MORE: Get Tom Dienhart's Week 6 Big Ten previews ]

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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dick patten on 10/2/2013 @ 8:59pm EDT Said:

sincerely hope the real Michigan Wolverines show up this Saturday. I was in Ann Arbor to watch the disgusting game vs Akron, a team they were picked to win by 34 points and to think it came down to the last second of the game. How foolish for a team such as Michigan to be held hostage by Akron. Come on, fellas! Then go to Connecticut and play a team that once again should have been beaten and trail 21-7 in the last quarter. They were very lucky to have won that game. I love this team, love it so much playing football, but I can tell you Michigan is the laughing stock of the Big Ten. They have dropped in the rankings from #11 to 19, disgusting. Come on boys, let’s show them who is boss. This is conference play, it doesn’t get any easier after this game. Devin, you are not a superstar, so grow up and play like you should. If not, Shane and Brian are more than capable of doing the job. The Defense stand up and do your job, stop acting like a good host. The Offense show the quarterback you are there to support him. And to all the players, stop your penalities, and stop , and I mean stop the celebrations until the game is over. So what if you make a big play, you have a whole game to play. Go Blue! Don’t run away!

hadley smith on 10/3/2013 @ 3:13pm EDT Said:

@dick patten..maybe you should go talk to the team before each game to get them fired up!! You could do it just as well as Hoke would. Here’s a point to consider as well. A friend of mine told me he thinks Hoke is overqualified to coach mich. If he were coaching say a MAC school, he’d win them a MAC champ. He doesn’t think Hoke can do it with Mich. I’m beginning to almost bel. him. I know we shd. wait until the end of this season and see what happens, but I’ll tell ya what, if he doesn’t at least get us to the B1G champ. game this year, you’ll have to wonder if he’ll ever do it. And if we go 9-4 or 8-5 again, people are gonna start talking and maybe even Dave Brandon will start getting 2nd thoughts if he hired the right person.
Mich. had their chances both after Carr retired and Rodriquez was fired, to hire good quality top-of-the-line coaches. I’m talkin about Les Miles and Jim Harbaugh. A lot of speculation came out of why neither got the offer either in ’08 or ’10. But one factor came out that was true was both coaches wanted more than what mich. was willing to pay them. It Is a well know fact that Mich. is tight with the purse strings when it comes to paying their coaches.

Even the great Bo Schembechler didn’t make that much coaching at Mich. But he also didn’t care how much he was paid (along with winning Nat’l championships and his players up for the Heisman–but that’s a different story) He just cared about winning football. and that’s how Mich has become so compliant in this area. In fact Mich. other than bo, hasn’t had a top quality coach since Fritz Chrysler! So, we’ve had 2 really good coaches in the last 60 yrs or so, that won B1G ten and a cpl of Nat’l championships. Those 2 coaches alone won us more championships than any of the other 6 coaches combined that were hired after Chrysler!! That is truly an amazing fact!!
Compare that to ohio in that same amt. of time, and they blow us out of the water!! This shouldn’t be happening, not at Michigan. So I hope that when Hoke (who PROMISED his players when he was hired that he was gonna get them their B1G Ten rings) fails again to get them those rings, the Michigan fans will take off their maize colored glasses and finally realize that he isn’t the right man for the job. I hope that I can be proven wrong on this but unfortunately I think I’m gonna be right.

    dick patten on 10/3/2013 @ 5:10pm EDT Said:

    Thank you Hadley for your reply. i would love to go talk to the team, but i was told that Hoke doesn’t speak to common people. I asked when I came out if I could get an autograph or a chance to at least say hello and his secretary told me on the telephone that he doesn’t talk to common people. I am on disability, i use a wheelchair to get to the games. I come out once a year by train from Concord NH to Ann Arbor to see a game. I was disappointed to that mess vs Akron. A team that they were suppose to beat by 37 points and hung on for a win. What a mess and then at UConn, what a travesty. I am sure he is a good man, but somewhere it is breaking down, they should be winning big time, i hope this week vs Minnesota the real team comes out.