Yesterday afternoon, offensive tackle Taylor Lewan announced in a press conference that he would return to school for his senior season. It came as a surprise to nearly everybody as the 6’8″, 309-pound junior was projected to be a high first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. It’s rare for a player of his caliber to forego what would have certainly been a large paycheck, but it’s very refreshing to see.
During the Lloyd Carr tenure, especially as his career went on, it seemed that making the jump was pretty much the norm, though Jake Long, Chad Henne, and Mike Hart all stayed for their senior season. Long, like Lewan, was a sure-fire high draft pick and parlayed the gamble to come back into the top overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Lewan has the potential to do the same as long as he can avoid the injury bug.
It’s always a risky move to put on hold an NFL contract for one more year of college ball. Just ask USC quarterback Matt Barkley who would have likely been a first round pick last season, but chose to return and suffered through a poor and injury-riddled season that will likely hurt his draft stock this April. On the other hand, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck did the same a year ago and it payed off.
What’s most impressive in my opinion is the reasons Lewan stated for his decision. For one, he loves college, and that was evident more than ever during Wednesday night’s basketball game against Nebraska when Lewan got up in front of the band and led them in The Victors. Secondly, he stated that he has unfinished business, having not achieved a Big Ten title yet in his career. Third, Michigan has a long tradition of great offensive linemen such as Jon Jansen and Steve Hutchinson, in addition to Long, who have stayed through their senior years and still went on to long and productive NFL careers. Lewan realized that and what a special opportunity it is to play for Michigan.
“If you play at the University of Michigan, whether it’s basketball, hockey, football, there’s a tradition here and there’s something you want to be a part of,” Lewan said. “And if I do what I need to do, I’ll be able to play in the NFL for however long, but you only get one more year of college.”
The other reason he gave for returning is the most telling and the most important: he wanted to be a leader the way last year’s senior offensive lineman, David Molk, was for the younger guys on the team. Brady Hoke has brought in a great haul of offensive linemen to fill a void that was left thin by the previous regime. While the young guys such as Kyle Kalis, Blake Bars, Ben Braden, and Erik Magnuson, as well as this year’s incoming class, are extremely talented, perhaps nothing is more valuable than being able to grow and learn alongside an All-American to see what it takes to become one and what it takes to be a lock for the first round of the NFL Draft.
The foundation that was put in place by Janson and Hutchinson and Long and Molk has now transcended three coaching staffs and personifies exactly what it means to be a Michigan Man. Had Lewan chosen to make the leap, no one would have blamed him for doing so, but it would have left next year’s offensive line extremely young and inexperienced. That’s not a recipe for success in college football. His return provides leadership in addition to talent and it sets an example for the talented young guys.
“Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson, I want to be a part of their lives for one more year and help them develop into something where they can possibly be in my position in a couple years,” Lewan said.
Lewan’s return is probably the best news Michigan could have received this offseason – better than any recruit Hoke will sign on Feb. 6 – because it will have both an instant impact next season and a residual impact on the future of the offensive line. Bravo to Lewan for embodying what college football is supposed to be about rather than simply using it as a stepping stone to the riches of the NFL.
Posts Tagged ‘Kyle Kalis’
Last Friday, we released Part 1 of our three-part series on the numbers the freshmen will be wearing this fall and the previous Wolverines who have either worn them or made a name for themselves while wearing them. Today, we take a look at the second part of the series with a group of linebackers and linemen.
#49 – Kaleb Ringer
The most famous Wolverine to wear number 49 was Bob Chappuis in 1942, ’46-47. His Michigan career was interrupted by service in World War II. As a gunner and radio operator, his plane was shot down over Italy where he was rescued and remained until the war ended. He returned to Michigan to lead the “Mad Magicians” of 1947. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting that year and was named All-American. To this day, he holds Michigan’s single-season passer rating (175.3) and single season record for yards per completion (18.8). When his Michigan playing days were done, he played pro football for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Hornets and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He passed away this June at the age of 89.
Richard Volk was Chappuis’ nephew and wore number 49 from 1964-66. He played halfback, fullback, quarterback, and defensive back positions during his time in the maize and blue and was named All-American following the 1966 season. He went on to a stellar career in the NFL that included three Pro Bowl selections, and he was inducted into Michigan’s Athletic Hall of Honor in 1989.
Other notables to wear number 49: Jay Feeley (1994-98), Ed Frutig (1937-39), Dhani Jones (1996), Andy Moeller (1982-86), Kirk Moundros (1999-2002), Chuck Ortmann (1948-50), Bob Ptacek (1956-58)
#50 – Tom Strobel
The first player in Big Ten history to play in every minute of every game in a season was Otto Pommerening, a tackle from 1926-28. A unanimous All-American in 1928, Pommerening was only 5’11″, 178 pounds, roughly the size of current Michigan defensive back Courtney Avery. Despite his small stature, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest linemen to every play at Michigan. Somehow he finished fourth for the Chicago Tribune Silver Football trophy, given annually to the Big Ten’s MVP.
Another star to wear number 50 is a guy whose number Strobel is replacing, center David Molk. Molk started 41 career games at center and won the Rimington Trophy last season as the nation’s best center. He was a consensus first-team All-American and team captain. His departure leaves a huge hole to fill, both on Michigan’s line and in senior leadership.
Other notables to wear number 50: Howie Auer (1929-31), Paul Girgash (1979-82), Mark Messner (1984), Jeremy Van Alstyne (2002-06)
#52 – Royce Jenkins-Stone
Jenkins-Stone will share number 52 with center Ricky Barnum this season, but the man who was best known for 52 was center Rod Payne. He started 40 games during his career in which he was named first team All-Big Ten twice and first team All-American in 1996. He was drafted in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and battled injuries throughout his career. He currently coaches Spanish River Community High School in Palm Beach, Fla.
Payne was, ironically, the last Michigan starting center to wear number 52 before Barnum this season. The last linebacker to wear the number prior to Jenkins-Stone was Kevin Leach (2007-10).
Other notables to wear number 52: Kevin Brooks (1981-84), James H. Lincoln (1935-37), Stephen Schilling (2006-10), Chris Ziemann (1997-99)
#53 – Mario Ojumedia
No Michigan player has become an All-American while wearing number 53, but a very good one just graduated. Ryan Van Bergen started 38 games in his career and was named All-Big Ten honorable mention a year ago. He was an important part of Michigan’s success in 2012, teaming up with Mike Martin to form a formidable defensive line.
Another great number 53 was Archie Kodros in the late 1930s. He was a center paving the way for Tom Harmon for a couple of seasons. In 1939, one Ohio reporter said of Kodros, “One reason why Tom Harmon plays so sensationally each Saturday is shown here. The Michigan line, led by Captain Archie Kodros, No. 53, blocks beautifully and opens the way for Tom to get into the secondary where the star Wolverine back can peddle his own papers.” That’s pretty high praise. He also intercepted a pass against Ohio State to help Michigan win 21-14.
Other notables to wear number 53: Tom Cecchini (1963-65), Richard O’Schaughnessy (1951-53), Shantee Orr (1999-2002), Mel Owens (1977-80), Al Sincich (1981-84)
#56 – Ondre Pipkins
Pipkins will share number 56 this season with offensive lineman Joey Burzynski who is battling for the starting left guard spot. From 2008-10, Ricky Barnum wore 56 before switching to 52 last season. The most successful 56 in Michigan history was relatively recent, defensive end LaMarr Woodley. The Lombardi Award winner in 2006, Woodley led the Big Ten and ranked eighth nationally with 12 sacks that season. He also earned a unanimous first-team All-American selection and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He was drafted 46th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007 and continues to be a dominant defensive end.
Other notables to wear number 56: Jim Brieske (1942-43, 46-47), Harold Goodwin (1992-94), James Hall (1995-99), Frank Maloney (1960-61)
#62 Blake Bars
No Michigan player has earned All-American honors while wearing number 62, but one wore the number and became an All-American a year later after switching numbers. It was Julius Franks, who has the unique honor of being the first African-American All-American at Michigan. He was just the third African-American to play for Michigan and was said to be the hardest working player Fritz Crisler ever coached. He was named to the Michigan Hall of Honor in 1983.
Bars certainly isn’t the most highly-ranked incoming freshman, but he has a unique chance to become the first superstar to wear number 62 if he sticks with it his entire career.
Other notables to wear number 62: Tim McAvoy (2005-09), Quentin Sickels (1944-48)
#67 – Kyle Kalis
Defensive tackle Nathan Brink will don 67 this season along with Kalis. Two former Wolverines have been All-Americans while wearing number 67. One is Merv Pregulman, a lineman who played all positions on the line from 1941-43. He was named a Grantland Rice All-American honorable mention his sophomore season and first-team his senior season. He played on a line with Julius Franks (above) and Al Wistert, whose number is getting Legend designation this fall. He was inducted into the College Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 and Michigan’s Hall of Honor in 1988.
The other All-American to wear 67 was John Vitale. A four-year starter, Vitale played guard his freshman year and center the other three. He was All-Big Ten twice and first team All-American in 1988.
Other notables to wear number 67: David Brandt (1997-2000), Matt Lentz (2001-05), Matt Patanelli (1935-36), Terrance Taylor (2005-08)
Stay tuned for part three next week: #71 Ben Braden, #78 Erik Magnuson, #82 Amara Darboh, #84 A.J. Williams, #86 Jehu Chesson, #99 Matthew Godin
[Ed: We decided to break up the recruiting profiles by position group, so today is the offensive line (we will add Diamond tonight if he goes Blue). Tomorrow will be the backfield and we'll pick things up again on Monday as we work through the rest of the position groups]
Michigan hauled in a great offensive line class, perhaps second nationally behind Stanford. And not to beat a dead horse, but if Jordan Diamond chooses Michigan over Auburn and Arkansas this evening, it will get even better. For now, we’re not counting him. The four players signed hail from four different states and carry an average ranking of 3.7 and all four are among the top 52 offensive tackles nationally. They’re all nearly the same size – Kalis is about 20 pounds heavier – and should form the backbone of Michigan’s line for years to come.
National Signing Day came and went on Wednesday and when all was said and done, Head Coach Brady Hoke announced a 25-member recruiting class. The day started off well with a surprise commitment from four-star running back Dennis Norfleet from Martin Luther King High School in Detroit. The rest of the day went as expected with all 22 signed Letters of Intent arriving (three are already enrolled for spring semester).
There still remains a shot at Chicago Simeon offensive lineman Jordan Diamond, who makes his announcement on Friday, and Colorado offensive lineman Alex Kozan who verbally committed to Iowa on Sunday but didn’t fax in his LOI on Wednesday.
Below is a position-by-position breakdown as well as a location-based look at this year’s class. Stay tuned tomorrow for in-depth bios of each offensive recruit and then Saturday morning for the defensive side.
As you can see above, Michigan didn’t sign a quarterback in this year’s class, but has Shane Morris committed for next year’s class. He’ll enter as Denard Robinson graduates and battle for the starting spot with Devin Gardner. The four offensive linemen are all listed as tackles but in tomorrow’s individual breakdown, we’ll discuss where they project on the line. The same can be said for the four defensive backs. Terry Richardson is the only one listed as a cornerback; the other three as safeties.
Michigan’s class is very Midwest-focused this year, as opposed to the classes we saw under Rich Rodriguez which pulled a bit more from the south, most notably Florida. Hoke didn’t get anyone south of Tennessee, and only ventured out west for two – Erik Magnuson from Carlsbad, Calif. and Sione Houma from Salt Lake City, Utah. If Kozan switches his commitment to Michigan, that will add another player from the west, as he hails from Colorado, but we won’t bet on that happening. If Diamond commits to Michigan on Friday, he will add yet another player from the Midwest.