As Lewan ponders chick flicks, line tries to write him a happy ending

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By Zach Helfand, Daily Sports Editor
Published August 26, 2013

P.S. I Love You is a 2007 romance film starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler about a young widow, Holly, who receives letters prewritten by her deceased husband that leads to a poignant journey of loss and discovery. This is relevant because the Michigan football team’s All-American left tackle name-dropped the movie during a press conference Monday.

(“I’m not here to watch ‘P.S. I Love You’ and cry myself to sleep,” said the fifth-year senior, Taylor Lewan, asked if he felt nostalgia in his final year at Michigan. “I’m here to play football.”)

This is also relevant because Michigan is about to embark on its own exploration of loss and discovery. Follow: the offensive line represents the biggest question mark for entering the 2013 season. It underperformed in 2013. The Wolverines lost the entire interior to graduation.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke has inserted three untested linemen into the interior. Michigan’s offensive fate will hinge upon their effectiveness. Like Holly, Michigan will soon find out: Is it best to start anew? Will the discovery outweigh the loss?

“These guys understand that we’re a team within a team, and this team’s going to live or die based on what we do,” Lewan said of the offensive line.

Michigan’s transition into the pro-style offense requires a power running game. The line must control the line of scrimmage. The more successful Michigan team’s in the past 15 years have relied on a formidable front five that begot a proficient runner — Anthony Tomas led to Chris Perry to Mike Hart.

Last year, Michigan running backs — excluding quarterback turned utility back Denard Robinson — rushed for 935 yards. Starting tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint had 514 rushing yards in 11 games before an injury. In its 2013 system, Michigan needs improvement from its line.

“I expect it,” Lewan said. “I absolutely expect this team to be a punishing offensive line. That’s what we should be.”

There are no questions at tackle where Lewan is joined by returning starter and fellow fifth-year senior Michael Schofield. The brand-new interior has more potential than last year’s group.

But potential doesn’t always equal production initially. That’s especially true of a group with 11 combined appearances and no starts.

“We really like ‘em,” Hoke said. “And I liked the guys last year too, don’t get me wrong.”

Redshirt freshman right guard Kyle Kalis offers the most promise. He, coaches say, believes he could have been a starter last year.

Redshirt sophomores Jack Miller and Graham Glasgow had battled at center. The depth chart, released Monday, showed the results: Miller edged out Glasgow, and Glasgow shifted to left guard, beating redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant for the starting job there.

Hoke has praised Miller’s intelligence, and Lewan said he has picked up the calls well. The decision to play Glasgow at guard, Hoke said, was a matter of fielding the five best lineman, regardless of position.

Each has played sparingly but remains untested. Each could decide the trajectory of the Wolverines’ season.