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Lewan's influence isn't just on offense

By Everett Cook, Daily Sports Editor
Published August 28, 2013

Michigan junior defensive end Frank Clark spent the summer watching lots of film on a specific offensive tackle, which isn’t a surprise considering the Michigan football team’s first game of the season is on Saturday.

But Clark isn’t just scouting the Wolverines’ next opponents. He’s scouting the All-American offensive tackle on his own team, redshirt senior Taylor Lewan, not trying to get an edge for games, but for practice.

That’s how competitive the two got in training camp while matched up, to the point where Clark felt the need to scout his own teammate to be able to beat him in drills.

“Taylor is a great player,” Clark said, “Going against him every day, him hassling me to come over and rush against him … in everything I do, it’s based off of beating Taylor. When he gets me and beats me, it keeps me humble and makes me want to try that next time a little bit harder and makes me want to learn a little bit more.”

Michigan’s best offensive lineman and best defensive lineman were pitted against each other for much of spring ball and training camp. Clark considers Lewan to be the best offensive lineman in the country, which means things got very competitive, very quickly.

The duo would keep a running tally of who beat whom. By the end of practice, one was usually in the other’s face. During the spring, it was Lewan getting the better of Clark the majority of the time, but things got more even during training camp. Clark’s individual tests against Lewan were paying off.

“It was equal, I would say, in camp,” Clark said. “In preseason camp, he forced me to improve my game more. He forced me to not only rely on the bull rush and learn more moves. Taylor has great character, and it’s helped me become a better player.”

Lewan’s influence on the offensive side of the ball is clear. The newly appointed captain is the leader of a young unit, even before he decided to pass on the NFL Draft and return to school for a fifth year. Redshirt sophomore center Jack Miller echoed the sentiment last week when he said that he and the other young offensive linemen model their games after Lewan, who could be a top-five pick in next year’s draft.

But it’s also important that the defensive line — an equally young but talented unit — is picking up lessons from Lewan, too.

Even if it means they spend time watching film of their own teammates.

“Sometimes, I know our guys look at Taylor Lewan and go, 'Oh, geez, another day of going against Taylor Lewan,' ” said defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. “Well, that's made Frank Clark a heck of a better player.”

NOTES: Michigan coach Brady Hoke said that the band will be practicing on the field with the team tomorrow, which he considers the best practice of the year. … Hoke said sophomore Jarrod Wilson will probably start at free safety after senior Courtney Avery had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last Saturday. … Of the five backup running backs listed on Michigan’s depth chart, Hoke said redshirt freshman Drake Johnson would be the primary backup behind redshirt senior Fitzgerald Toussaint.