Michigan Wolverines: Ricky Barnum

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Taylor Lewan heard the confusion and saw the stunned expression from almost everyone he knew.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Lewan
Andrew Weber/US PresswireO-lineman Taylor Lewan likely would have been a first-round draft pick, had he opted to leave U-M after last season.
From family. From friends. From an old woman in a local Kroger who approached Lewan and then proceeded to call him an idiot for sticking around at Michigan another year.

“People,” Lewan said, “think I’m crazy.”

When someone turns down the potential for millions of dollars to play a violent, unforgiving game for free for another year, the questioning makes sense. Lewan understands that. He appreciates that.

But it was his decision, and Michigan and Lewan's coaching staff are happy for it.

Lewan’s return offered immediate dividends for Michigan. It could place him easily at left tackle, not worry about the results, and focus on shoring up the interior of an offensive line which has no experience at all.

Michigan offensive line coach Darrell Funk said recently he’d like to have at least one, maybe two of the spots solidified by the time fall camp starts. In a perfect scenario, the Wolverines would have their entire offensive line set by the end of spring, but that seems unlikely, considering the emphasis coach Brady Hoke has placed on summer development in the past.

That development aided Michigan last season when it eventually leaned on Elliott Mealer to start at center and Ricky Barnum to start at left guard after the two entered fall camp at each other’s eventual positions.

(Read full post)

Depth chart analysis: Center 

January, 14, 2013
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Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis of each heading into the offseason.

Two seasons ago, Michigan had the best center in the country, a guy with one heck of a mean streak and an edge that never really went away. Last season, the Wolverines had the opposite, a guy who might have been one of the more friendly players on the team and someone who was good in stretches and struggled in others.

For the third straight season, Michigan will have a new starting center and no matter who it is the player will have minimal to no experience.

Michigan's Lewan gears up for Clowney

December, 10, 2012
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Hours before Michigan's game at Nebraska, Wolverines offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and two of his linemates killed some time in the hotel by watching South Carolina take on Tennessee.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Lewan
Patrick Green/Icon SMIMichigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan has been studying South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney in preparation for their Jan. 1 bowl game.
Not surprisingly, Lewan soon noticed No. 7 in maroon for the Gamecocks. Sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is hard to miss.

"You know what," Lewan told teammates Elliott Mealer and Jack Miller, "that guy's a good player."

Lewan had no idea at the time that he'd be spending most of December watching Clowney. Michigan faces South Carolina on Jan. 1 at the Outback Bowl, and no individual matchup in the game brings more intrigue than Lewan vs. Clowney.

Both men have appeared on All-America teams and earned conference recognition, as Lewan won the Big Ten's Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award and was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten pick. Clowney claimed the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award from the league's coaches and unanimous All-SEC honors. Clowney recorded 13 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss this season.

"I can't say enough about him," Lewan said. "He's a great player, and I'm excited about the opportunity to go against him. Big, physical player, gets his hands off, swings a lot."

Lewan hasn't faced a defensive end quite like the 6-6, 256-pound, freakishly athletic Clowney in the Big Ten this season. He said the closest comparisons are Ohio State's John Simon -- the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year -- and former Purdue star Ryan Kerrigan, who won 2010 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors before becoming a first-round pick of the Washington Redskins.

Lewan has been projected as a potential first-round draft pick if he chooses to forgo his senior season. Clowney can't enter the draft until after the 2013 season, but he's the most draft-ready true sophomore in college football. Lewan says he's not thinking about his draft decision, or whether a matchup against Clowney gives him a gauge of what he could do at the next level.

But he does plan to see plenty of the South Carolina star in Tampa.

"He lines up across from the left tackle every time, from what I've seen," Lewan said. "I'm not sure what their game plan is, but I'm sure we'll be going against each other a lot."

Lewan acknowledges that Michigan's offensive line has had its ups and downs this season. The Wolverines eclipsed 400 yards of offense six times and were held to fewer than 300 yards four times, including in a Nov. 24 loss to rival Ohio State in the regular-season finale.

Although "one game won't define us as an offensive line," Lewan knows there's a lot at stake against Clowney and a South Carolina defense that ranks in the top 20 nationally in total defense (12th) scoring defense (13th), rushing defense (15th), sacks (fifth) and tackles for loss (19th).

"There's three seniors on the starting offensive line right now (guards Patrick Omameh and Ricky Barnum and Mealer), and I want them to go out with a bang," Lewan said. "There'd be nothing better than going out with an Outback win."

Season anaylsis: Offensive line 

November, 30, 2012
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It was a unit entering the season with a lot of age but questions about experience, two new starters and little-to-no depth to replace anyone who was injured or struggled.

Those issues showed throughout this season, as Michigan’s offensive line was mediocre for most of the year, strong in small spots and awful when finishing blocks in the run game.

It is a problem, though, that became a huge issue for the Wolverines in 2012, and one they hope to remedy as soon as possible.

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WolverineNation mailbag 

November, 28, 2012
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The regular season ended with a thud for Michigan last Saturday, as the Wolverines flat-lined offensively in the second half against Ohio State in a 26-21 loss that left many wondering exactly what happened.

Offensive coordinator Al Borges has not yet spoken to the media after the loss and while Michigan head coach Brady Hoke didn’t give many answers, this week’s Mailbag tries to explain some of what went on.

Remember, the Mailbag is only as good as the questions you ask, so send those to jenningsespn@gmail.com or @chanteljennings for next week.

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WolverineNation mailbag 

November, 14, 2012
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- While questions about Denard Robinson’s health hang over the Michigan football team for the third consecutive week, other questions also have started to emerge.

Who will catch passes next year? What about Brady Hoke’s on-field demeanor?

These questions and more are answered in this week’s WolverineNation mailbag. Questions for next week should go to jenningsespn@gmail.com or @chanteljennings.

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WolverineNation roundtable 

November, 8, 2012
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Questions at quarterback, issues along the offensive line, and what, exactly, will Michigan do at receiver next season if Devin Gardner moves back to quarterback as anticipated?

[+] EnlargeJerald Robinson
Jay Talbott/Icon SMIWhen the shuffle starts for 2013, Jerald Robinson could be a key for U-M at receiver.
These questions are tackled here this week, in WolverineNation's weekly roundtable.

1. Michigan has had some major issues with its offensive line this season. What would be your strategy to fix it?

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WolverineNation roundtable 

November, 1, 2012
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan has its first look at its basketball team on Thursday night while its football team continues to try and figure out a way to deal with depth issues as it fights to reach the Big Ten championship game.

Will the Wolverines get to Indianapolis? What will the Michigan hoops team show?

These questions are debated in this week’s WolverineNation roundtable, where our staff takes on three issues surrounding Michigan sports.

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WolverineNation mailbag 

October, 24, 2012
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Ann Arbor is pretty exciting right now. Michigan football has ended the losing streak to the team from East Lansing and is undefeated in the Big Ten. The basketball team has been practicing for more than a week now and grabbed a top-10 preseason ranking. And spring seems to be thinking it fits between fall and winter (I'm not complaining).

Plus, it's Wednesday, which should make everyone more excited because the weekly WolverineNation mailbag is here. We love hearing from our readers so keep sending your questions in any time you have them. Next week Mike will take care of this so email him at michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or tweet him @mikerothstein.

Now, on to this week's questions…

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3 Up, 3 Down: Michigan 45, Illinois 0 

October, 14, 2012
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan put together its second consecutive dominating performance Saturday, shutting out Illinois 45-0 and putting together what Michigan coach Brady Hoke called the most complete game of his team’s season.

[+] EnlargeRawls
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireThomas Rawls rushed for a season-high 90 yards, a nice complement to Denard Robinson's running.
Almost everything worked for the Wolverines. The offense had more passing (174) and rushing (353) yards than Illinois had total yards (134). The Wolverines’ defense held Illinois to 29 passing yards and was dominant for the majority of the game.

THREE UP

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Taylor Lewan said he believed what he heard and what he was asked, that through the first month of the season he thought the offensive line was struggling because that was what he was told.

Now, though, he believes something else. With one week of Big Ten play put away, the redshirt junior said he thinks this year’s line has a chance to be “special.”

So what does “special” mean, exactly?

(Read full post)

Notebook: O-line shuffles

September, 2, 2012
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- All fall, fifth-year senior Elliott Mealer said he was competing to win the job at left guard. But even then, there were hints of something else in his future.

On Saturday in the season opener, in the first start of his career, Mealer played not at left guard, but as Michigan’s starting center.

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson and Alabama's defense
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesRicky Barnum, trying to help Denard Robinson, istarted at left guard instead of center.
Ricky Barnum, thought to be Michigan’s starting center, ended up playing left guard.

“They had been both playing a lot of center, a lot of guard,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “Just felt some of the shotgun stuff with Elliott was a little better.”

Both ended up being integral parts of the offensive line.

Also, Michigan showed how it would adjust due to injury after left tackle Taylor Lewan left the game in the fourth quarter. If Lewan misses any time, right tackle Michael Schofield will move to left tackle, right guard Patrick Omameh will move to right tackle and Joey Burzynski will come in at right guard.

Injury concerns: Michigan saw two of its best players leave Saturday’s game due to injury, cornerback Blake Countess and Lewan.

Lewan, who was injured in the fourth quarter with the game no longer in doubt, could barely walk to the locker room after the game, limping badly on his right leg and eventually needing help from a staffer to reach the locker room.

Countess was injured on punt coverage in the first quarter and was seen after the game leaving the field on crutches.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke had no update on either player after the game.

Freshmen in action: The Wolverines knew they were going to use a lot of first-year players against Alabama. Depth and the overall talent level of the class they recruited necessitated it.

But if Saturday is any indication, expect to see a large youth movement at Michigan this season. At least 10 freshmen received some playing time -- linebackers Royce Jenkins-Stone, James Ross III and Joe Bolden, defensive linemen Mario Ojemudia and Ondre Pipkins, safety Jarrod Wilson, cornerback Terry Richardson, tight end A.J. Williams and running back Dennis Norfleet.

Of the 10, Norfleet and Ross III had the most significant roles. Ross III played often during base defensive packages for Michigan and made two assisted tackles. Norfleet was one of the bright spots for the Wolverines, gaining 177 yards on eight kick returns.

This and that: Josh Furman, who was named a starting kick returner on Monday and is a special teams standout for the Wolverines, did not make the trip to Arlington. When asked for a reason, Hoke just said, “He didn’t make the trip.” ... Michigan had two honorary captains for the game, former wide receiver Desmond Howard and former coach Gary Moeller. ... Michigan also had Russell Bellomy, not Devin Gardner, as its primary backup quarterback. Gardner, however, started at wide receiver.

Key to 2012: No. 2 Ricky Barnum 

August, 30, 2012
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Ricky BarnumLeon Halip/Getty ImagesRicky Barnum has big shoes to fill, replacing Rimington Award winner David Molk.
Over the next two weeks, WolverineNation will break down the 10 players who need to play to the peak of their abilities for Michigan to have its best possible season, going from 10 all the way to No. 1.

Replacing David Molk is not going to be easy, no matter how much confidence fifth-year senior center Ricky Barnum says he has in himself. Molk was the Rimington Award winner as the nation’s best center last season and was a seventh-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers.


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WolverineNation mailbag 

August, 29, 2012
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The fact that I can write that there will be an actual, live football game this weekend seems pretty unreal. The summer flew by and college football season really is here. There's still some predicting that needs to happen, but most people will have concrete answers to their toughest questions soon. Like: Will Fitzgerald Toussaint play against Alabama? Can Will Campbell play up to his potential this season? Will a freshman receiver see the field? And really, what do tigers dream of when they take a little tiger snooze?

We love hearing from our fans, so keep the questions coming. And, if you have any really tough questions or questions about hair, send them to Mike for next week's mailbag. You can tweet him @mikerothstein or email him michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com.

But now, let's get to business. Jace Maleport, Grand Rapids, Mich.: If Michigan loses to Alabama, how severe do you feel the negative impact would be on the team from a loss of 7-14 points (close) compared to a loss of 21 points or more (blowout)?

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Key to 2012: No. 4 Taylor Lewan 

August, 28, 2012
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Taylor LewanAndrew Weber/US PresswireLeft tackle Taylor Lewan is the Wolverines' best NFL offensive line prospect since Jake Long.
Over the next two weeks, WolverineNation will break down the 10 players who need to play to the peak of their abilities for Michigan to have its best possible season, going from 10 all the way to No. 1.

Taylor Lewan is Michigan’s most experienced offensive lineman and the best professional prospect the Wolverines have had along the offensive line since another dominant left tackle played for the Wolverines, Jake Long.

Lewan, though, still has a lot of room to improve. While he is one of the best overall blockers in the Big Ten, he has never had to be the leader of the offensive line, having Stephen Schilling around two seasons ago and David Molk last season. Both now are with the San Diego Chargers, leaving Lewan to do more than just play his position. And with a first-time starter next to him at left guard and fifth-year senior Ricky Barnum still growing into the center slot in his first season starting there, it will be up to Lewan to work on the cohesiveness of the unit.

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