Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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OL win over Virginia Tech. In between, though, was just enough good fortune — and guys willing to play through bumps and bruises — to help pull out an 11-win season. Two years and a few outstanding recruiting classes later, Funk's line is in much better position to succeed. There were 15 linemen able to compete in spring practice, and 16 total on the roster. Four more talented freshmen will join the team for fall practice, meaning no more patchwork units for Funk. He'll now have (potentially) one of the most talented young lines he's ever coached. "We don't have to do that anymore," he said of trying to find enough bodies. "We're going to be okay. The great thing about that is when you have true competition, I don't have to motivate as much. These guys want to play, and they know that if they're not ready come fall, there's going to be another guy to put in. "We didn't have that the last few years. Even though we had guys working to get better, we had five, maybe six guys that were game ready. There are only so many ways you can spin that. Having true competition and depth is really going to be helpful for us." Strong On The Outside Another big plus is the return of fifth-year senior tackle and AllAmerican Taylor Lewan (6-8, 308), the Big Ten's reigning Offensive Lineman of the Year. Big Ten Rankings Players 1. Taylor Lewan, 5th-Sr., Michigan — A consensus All-American in 2012, the intimidating tackle turned down a potential top-10 NFL draft spot for another shot at a Big Ten title. His signature mean streak and positional expertise have earned him 35 career starts and should serve the Wolverines' offensive line well in 2013. 2. Spencer Long, 5th-Sr., Nebraska — In 2009, Long was an unknown walk-on in Lincoln. Four years and 27 straight starts later, the 2012 first-team All-Big Ten performer is the anchor of a talented Husker line. 3. Andrew Norwell, Jr., Ohio State — Norwell's versatility should prove an immense asset in Urban Meyer's second year in Columbus. The Cincinnati native, who has appeared in 24 games in his young career, started at left tackle the first five games of 2012 before becoming an interior menace at left guard for the remainder of the season. 4. Jeremiah Sirles, 5th-Sr., Nebraska — The sturdy three-year starter at left tackle garnered second-team All-Big Ten honors while helping the prolific Huskers rush for more than 200 yards in 12 games last season. 5. Ryan Groy, 5th-Sr., Wisconsin — Groy started at every spot along the offensive line except right tackle a year ago and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors for his flexibility. Expected to open the season at left guard, he also saw extensive practice time at left tackle during the spring. 6. John Urschel, 5th-Sr., Penn State — The veteran guard was vital for a Nittany Lion offensive that far surpassed expectations in 2012. A 4.0 GPA student, his high football IQ helped PSU yield only 14 sacks in 13 games last season — the fewest in the Big Ten. "These guys want to play, and they know that if they're not ready come fall, there's going to be another guy to put in. We didn't have that the last few years." Offensive Line Coach Darrell Funk Lewan chose to bypass the NFL for a year, citing unfinished business and a love for Michigan as his rationale. He wants to win a Big Ten championship and is doing his part to lead, both vocally and by example. This offseason, he has reportedly clocked a 4.8 electronically timed 40-yard dash, bench pressed 275 pounds 21 times, improved his squat to 550 pounds and improved his vertical jump from 26 inches to 29. "Ever since that day he announced he was coming back, he has grabbed that group, along with [fifth-year senior tackle] Mike Schofield, and made it his, and he's taken his training to a higher level," Funk said. "We can't do anything with him, but from everything we hear, whether it's in the weight room, offseason or spring ball, he's excelling. "We've had him two years, and he's grown so much as a person and a football player on and off the field up until the point he decided to stay here. Now the growth has really accelerated "I'm exited about how he's approached it, how he calls me when I'm on the road and he's got questions. He'll ask, 'How do you want this?' or 'What do you think of this or that?' He's already watching tape, and that just fires me up." Everyone who thinks Lewan was already a complete player will find out he's got more to give, and he's primed for a huge 2013 season. He more than held his own against South Carolina All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney after a disappointing showing against Ohio State. "People don't understand how strong he is, and he keeps getting stronger," Funk said. "People will be really shocked at what a physical specimen he is in terms of the weight room and running on the field. I'm excited for Taylor, how he looks, how he's trained, everything going into this fall. I think he is going to have a big year." Ohio State fifth-year center Corey Linsley started all 12 games last year for the Buckeyes. photo by Lon Horwedel 7. Corey Linsley, 5th-Sr., Ohio State — The steadfast OSU leader made the move from guard to center last year and started all 12 games for an Ohio State offense that led the conference with 37.2 points per game and finished second with 242.3 yards a game on the ground. 8. Jack Mewhort, 5th-Sr., Ohio State — A projected captain in 2013, the stalwart tackle has appeared in 35 games in his collegiate career, including an ongoing string of 25 straight starts. 9. Dan Feeney, So., Indiana — Feeney was named to multiple Freshman All-America teams, started an Indiana-record 12 games as a true freshman and did not surrender a sack in 935 snaps. 10. Jason Spriggs, So., Indiana — Spriggs also set a Hoosier record in starting 12 games as a rookie in 2012, providing protection for an IU team that led the conference with 311.2 passing yards per game despite multiple quarterback injuries. Units 1. Ohio State — A question mark heading into the 2012 season, the Buckeyes' offensive line thrived under first-year head coach Urban Meyer to fuel the most prolific offense in the Big Ten. Now, with four returning starters, OSU enters the campaign an absolute force in the trenches. 2. Nebraska — The Huskers ranked eighth in the nation in rushing offense in 2012 (253.4 yards per game) and welcome back seven linemen with extensive experience, including tackles Brent Qvale and Jeremiah Sirles, and guard Spencer Long. The trio has combined for 41 career starts. 3. Michigan — The Wolverines bring back two experienced and talented bookends in tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, but will be dependent upon the development of talented youngsters in the middle after losing all three interior linemen from a year ago. 4. Michigan State — MSU returns four starters, and will be reliant on strengthening the chemistry up front if an offense that struggled in 2012 is to experience a bounce-back campaign. 5. Indiana — The Hoosiers benefit from the return of three honorable mention All-Big Ten players in tackles Jason Spriggs and Dan Feeney, and center Will Matte, and look to build upon a year in which IU set school records for total offense (5,304 yards) and passing yards (3,734 yards). The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview  ■ 121

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