Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges early this week called Saturday's Michigan-Michigan State Big Ten showdown "a figurative street fight." That's just fine with highly touted Michigan senior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan.
"We're not going to get bullied this year," Lewan told reporters this week.
Michigan State beat Michigan 28-14 in 2011, the last time the game was played in East Lansing, and Lewan has bad memories of that outing.
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"If somebody came up to you and hit you right in the face, would you take that personally?" he told reporters. "Yeah, I take it personally. I take it personally every single time. No one likes to get bullied and that's what they did two years ago -- they bullied us."
Michigan's interior offensive line might be susceptible to some bullying. Wolverines coaches have done some shuffling of the line of late, and are hoping to get consistent production Saturday.
But getting consistent production from Lewan has not been a problem. He has played at an extremely high level. The Detroit Free Press reported that Lewan is grading out as the top offensive lineman in Michigan line coach Darrell Funk's 17-year career. Lewan also is grading out more than 5 percent higher than he did last season, when he toyed with leaving for the NFL.
Lewan lacks top-flight athleticism, but he is a physical technician with good strength who plays with a mean streak. He is seen as a sure first-rounder, with the only question being how early he will come off the board.
Lewan (6-foot-8, 315 pounds) likely will spend much of his time Saturday blocking Michigan State sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun (6-4, 250). Calhoun is a big-play guy who still can improve against the run. But he has four sacks, eight tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hurries, and given Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner's propensity for turnovers, it's vital that Michigan's offensive line keep Michigan State pass rushers out of Gardner's face.