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Friday, August 23, 2013
Big Ten rankings: No. 2, Taylor Lewan

By Brian Bennett

We're down to the final two in our countdown of the Big Ten's Top 25 players heading into the 2013 season. As a reminder, this list is based on past performance and potential for the upcoming season only. We do not consider NFL potential for purposes of these rankings.

Up next is our second straight guy named Taylor, this one a mountain of a Michigan man.

No. 2: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan, senior, 6-foot-8, 315 pounds

2012 postseason ranking: No. 7

2012 numbers: Started all 13 games at left tackle for Michigan. Credited with a touchdown against UMass. Named first team All-American by Walter Camp, Associated Press, and Won Big Ten's Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award.

Why he's here: Lewan stunned everyone in January by announcing he was returning to campus for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft, where he looked like a surefire first-round pick.

His return was a huge boost for Michigan's fortunes in 2013. Everybody remembers the Jadeveon Clowney hit on Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl. What people often neglect to mention was that Lewan more than held his own against Clowney -- widely considered the best defensive player in college football -- for most of that game. The Smith collision came after a miscommunication between Wolverines' linemen.

Lewan is on just about every preseason All-America team you can find. He owns the title of the Big Ten's best offensive lineman, and he will stake a claim this fall to being the best left tackle in the FBS. Michigan faced life with an extremely inexperienced offensive line had Lewan chosen to turn pro. Now, it has the best possible anchor for its attack, and expect to see a lot of running plays go toward Lewan's side this year.

The fifth-year senior has also developed into a team leader and hopes to lead Michigan to a Big Ten title to cap his career. Somewhere, Dr. Hamlet III oinks his approval.

The countdown

No. 25Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois
No. 24: Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa
No. 23James White, RB, Wisconsin
No. 22Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
No. 21John Urschel, G, Penn State
No. 20: Tyler Scott, DE, Northwestern
No. 19: Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State
No. 18: Deion Barnes, DE, Penn State
No. 17: Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska
No. 16: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
No. 15: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
No. 14: Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern
No. 13: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
No. 12: Spencer Long, G, Nebraska
No. 11: Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
No. 10: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
No. 9Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
No. 8: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
No. 7: Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State
No. 6: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
No. 5: Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern
No. 4: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
No. 3: Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska