'Nasty' Taylor Lewan is ready to contribute at left tackle for Michigan
Craig Roh and Taylor Lewan played together their senior seasons of high school and roomed together last year, so when Roh calls Lewan “dirty” know that he means it in the most complimentary way.
“He is, just, dirty sometimes, which is what a Big Ten offensive lineman should be like,” Roh said. “Just a nasty guy, a guy that you’re like, ‘I don’t want to go against him again.’ And I never hear someone on the defense saying, ‘Oh, Taylor’s just a really nice guy to go against.’ Everyone is like, ‘He’s holding me, he’s knocking me over when the play is over.’
“He’s just a nasty guy, which is that kind of mentality we need on the offensive line.”
Lewan has made a compelling case to start at left tackle for Michigan this fall with a breakout spring.
The 6-foot-7, 285-pound redshirt freshman devoured heavy reps at the position after Perry Dorrestein aggravated a back injury, and impressed coaches with both his tenacity and athleticism.
“We’re not ready to anoint him just yet, but he’s had a really good spring,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said last month. “He’s still got a lot to learn. He hasn’t played yet, but he’s certainly a guy that this spring he showed us a few things and if he continues on this path he’s going to be a really good player.”
Lewan, whose father, Dave, played offensive line at Minnesota, is still relatively new to the tackle position having played just one season of offense in high school.
But Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral High coach Charlie Ragle said that season “was like dog years” for Lewan, who played under the tutelage of Rod Humenuik, a former player and coach in the NFL.
“It was like getting seven for one because Rod had such a wealth of experience and for a kid like Taylor Lewan it was the perfect storm,” Ragle said.
Lewan transferred to Chaparral with no scholarship offers, but when college coaches came to recruit Roh three springs ago they noticed his long-limbed and fleet-footed teammate.
When Lewan finally picked Michigan, with Roh's prodding, his offer list read like a who's who of college football: Nebraska, Miami, Oregon, and more than a dozen others.
“I’m not one of these guys that flies off the handle and makes asinine statements, and I don’t want this article to read like that, but if Taylor Lewan can do the things that he does, he’ll play on Sundays," Ragle said. "His athleticism is that good."
And Lewan hasn't lost an ounce of that athleticism despite gaining more than 20 pounds since he arrived on campus last summer. In testing this spring, he ran the fastest 40-yard dash time of all offensive linemen.
Ragle, who saw Lewan over spring break and traded text messages with him last week, said his former pupil is ready for the starting job should he win it this fall.
"He’s got a gregarious personality, he’s got a great sense of humor, he’s a jovial young man," Ragle said. "But then when you step on that field, I’ve never seen a nastier individual than Taylor Lewan. That’s what our kids took away from him. That’s the mentality that you have to play with on the football field to be a dominant offensive lineman."
Michigan is recruiting another Chaparral offensive lineman, Andre Yruretagoyena, and Ragle said Lewan and Roh are leading the pursuit.
“I think Michigan will be in the mix without a doubt because those guys have done a great job,” Ragle said. “Tony (Dews) and those guys that come out here - Tony mainly recruits this area but Coach (Greg) Frey came out - they do a good job, but like I said, the players sell your program.”
Ragle said the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Yruretagoyena is in regular contact with both Lewan and Roh, and that Michigan likely will be in Yruretagoyena’s final five when he cuts his list in the coming month.
Originally from the Vancouver, Canada, area, Yruretagoyena also is considering USC, Oregon and Oregon State, among others.
Mike Rothstein contributed to this report.
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.