The position previews continue today with a look at the Wolverines’ offensive tackles, a position group where both starting spots are very much up for grabs:
Returning Contributors: Perry Dorrestein (RS Sr.), Mark Huyge (RS Jr.)
Ready to Contribute: Taylor Lewan (RS Fr.), Michael Schofield (RS Fr.)
Incoming Freshmen: None
Key Departures: Mark Ortmann
The Projected Starters: Redshirt junior Mark Huyge started nine games in 2009, including four at tackle, and he appears to have the inside track for the starting right tackle job. The 6-6, 305-pound Michigan native is not a spectacular player, but he is solid in both run and pass blocking and should settle in nicely in his first year starting full-time at tackle. Huyge probably won’t make any all-conference teams, but he’s an experienced player who has proven he can play at the Big Ten level — I think he’ll hold off a challenge from redshirt freshman Michael Schofield, at least for this year.
Redshirt freshman Taylor Lewan is doing his best Jake Long impression as a Wolverine, right down to wearing #77 and competing to start at tackle in just his second year in the program. At 6-8, 294 pounds, Lewan has the size to be a dominant left tackle, and practice reports indicate he has the skill and nasty streak to complement that huge frame. Although Lewan only started playing on the offensive line as a senior in high school, he has picked up the playbook and proper technique very quickly, as well as making huge strides in the weight room, and his natural physical ability will make it hard for the Michigan coaches to keep him off the field.
The Competition: Redshirt senior Perry Dorrestein will be Lewan’s chief competition at left tackle, and should the coaching staff be uncomfortable with having a freshman protecting the quarterback’s blind side, Dorrestein has the experience (13 career starts) to be a solid option for the Wolverines. At 6-7, 305 pounds, Dorrestein is a big, strong tackle, but he doesn’t move particularly well and could be exposed by the better defensive ends Michigan will face. Don’t be surprised is Dorrestein begins the year as the starter, only to be supplanted by the more talented Lewan as the season progresses.
Redshirt freshman Michael Schofield, like Lewan, is a former four-star recruit who used his redshirt year to add the bulk necessary (Schofield is up to 6-7, 293 pounds) to be a Big Ten tackle. Schofield is a very good athlete for his size, and with the added strength from a year under Mike Barwis he could make a strong push to start at right tackle this season — the biggest obstacle for him may be the staff’s reluctance in starting two freshman tackles if Lewan beats out Dorrestein on the left side. Schofield will likely back up Huyge this season, but he will be a more-than-viable replacement if called upon and he has a very good chance of earning a starting role by 2011.
Outlook: The interior of Michigan’s offensive line should be very strong, so the onus will be on the tackles to make the line one of the best in the conference. The Wolverines have a very interesting combination of experience, in Dorrestein and Huyge, and sky-high potential, in Lewan and Schofield. However the starting battles shake out, I think the team is in very good shape at the position, and the line should only improve as the year goes on. Lewan, especially, is one to watch — the similarities with Long are striking, and he has the talent to be a future first-round NFL draft pick if he can learn to use his size and strength the right way.
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