Brennen Beyer vs. Frank Clark one position battle to watch as Michigan football spring practice continues
The overall experience level between Michigan football sophomore defensive ends Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark isn't incredibly high.
But don't tell Taylor Lewan that.
"They're sometimes a hassle for me," said Lewan, who will likely be the Wolverines' starting left tackle for a third straight year in 2012. "I'm not going to lie."
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Beyer and Clark are engaged in one of the Wolverines' hottest position battles this spring, both youngsters competing at weak-side defensive end, the main pass-rush spot in coordinator Greg Mattison's defensive scheme.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Beyer made 11 tackles in 11 games as a freshman a year ago, but did so as a linebacker. After Mattison and coach Brady Hoke opted to move senior Craig Roh from weak- to strong-side end this spring, Beyer was moved from the linebacker corps to the defensive line.
Clark (6-foot-2, 228), meanwhile, appeared in 12 games as a freshman last season, finishing with 10 tackles and one incredibly athletic interception against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
Neither is long in the tooth, but both were good enough to get on the field during their first year in the program. And moving forward, Lewan says either player should be able to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks from the edge this fall.
He should know. He's fighting against them each day in practice.
"I think they're doing great," he said. "They're quick guys who get off the ball and know what they're doing.
"Phenomenal technique for younger guys."
Beyer's move to defensive line and his subsequent competition with Clark is all part of Mattison's plan to get the best 11 players he has on the field at the same time by creating intense competition at each spot.
With Beyer on the line, Jake Ryan and Cam Gordon are now in more direct competition at linebacker, as are freshmen Joe Bolden and Kaleb Ringer.
"You want to be able to put your people in the best position, but also have competition when you're doing it," Mattison said. "I think that's what's happened so far."
With Roh busy learning his new position, and fighting to add weight, he says he hasn't had a great deal of time to work with Beyer and Clark as they vie for a starting spot.
But then again, he says he doesn't really need to.
"Both those guys are athletes," he said. "They're quick guys. Brennen Beyer's a bit more stocky, he's a run stuffer. Frank is just a freak athlete. Both those guys are doing a great job learning, but they need to keep growing more and more.
"(And) they've got coach Mattison. He's a better teacher than I ever will be."