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Friday, January 11, 2013
Depth chart analysis: Left tackle

By Michael Rothstein

Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis of each position on the roster heading into the offseason.

Much like right after Brady Hoke first arrived at Michigan and finished off his best recruiting job of that year by making sure Denard Robinson stayed at the school, Hoke did it again this season.

No matter who Michigan signs in this class, his biggest immediate recruiting win came when Taylor Lewan decided to return to the Wolverines for one more season. Lewan’s presence does a ton for Michigan. It gives them an experienced, NFL-quality lineman protecting Devin Gardner’s blind side and it gives them a guaranteed locker room leader.

The starter: Lewan. This is the only no-brainer start on the offensive line and something Michigan is very, very lucky to have. Lewan has a chance to be the best offensive lineman in college football next season and if he has another good year, would be a near-lock to be no worse than a top 10 pick in the 2014 NFL draft. He should be a dominant force for the Wolverines next season, especially if he builds off how he -- and his help -- did against Jadeveon Clowney in the Outback Bowl. Next season also gives him a chance to become more of a complete lineman, which will only help said draft stock more.

The depth: Redshirt senior Michael Schofield, redshirt freshmen Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson. One of these three guys will start at right tackle next fall, and in Schofield’s case there’s a chance he could move inside to guard. Michigan, though, will hope none of these guys has to come in and replace Lewan, because much like last season, if Lewan goes out, a lot on the line gets shuffled around.

The question mark: Barring injury, there should be no question marks here. Lewan is a fantastic talent, a known quantity and someone who should be looked at as even more of a leader by his teammates because he essentially chose them over NFL millions. In a locker room where 85 percent of guys either harbor or once harbored dreams of making it to the pros, that’s huge.

The bottom line: Michigan’s team became instantly better when Lewan made his surprising announcement and its offensive line went from being a question mark from left tackle all the way to right tackle to a line which at least had some direction to it. Lewan does all of that. Lewan’s return should give Gardner some comfort, too, as his blind side will be safe more often than not next season, which should give him the confidence to stay in the pocket the extra split-second to make throws he needs.