Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan, one of the top prospects on many big boards at his position, has decided to return to the university next season and help Brady Hoke make a run at one more BCS berth.
The news broke on Wednesday afternoon, when the team's official Twitter account helped spread the word that Devin Gardner won't have to sweat as much when taking snaps in spring practice and at the start of the 2013 season:
Taylor Lewan will return to the University of Michigan.— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) January 9, 2013
The towering Lewan (6'8", 310 pounds) has started 28 consecutive games for Michigan and earned his fair share of hardware this season.
He was named a first team All-American, won the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year (which goes to the Big Ten's top offensive lineman) and was an All-Big Ten first-team selection.
For Lewan, the decision comes with its fair share of speculation. He would have likely been a Top 20 pick in this year's draft, and there's always the risk of injury looming next season—his senior year in college.
Taylor Lewan, right now, I don't think he's going to be the first left tackle taken. I think Luke Joeckel from Texas A&M, who won the Outland Trophy, I think he will be. Lewan, right now, is 13 on the big board. He will be battling, ironically, a kid from the Mid-American Conference, not far away at Central Michigan, in Eric Fisher. So it's Eric Fisher or Lewan to be the second tackle off the board, behind Joeckel.
Lewan, you go back to the Ohio State game, was beaten that one time but, overall, has been pretty solid this year, got better as the year went along. The Michigan situation, with Michigan producing a lot of offensive tackles for the NFL, certainly helps.
You can understand the difficulty for Lewan in making this decision. On one hand, the Wolverines underachieved this season and Lewan surely wants to make a run at the Big Ten title and a BCS berth during his final year in Ann Arbor.
On the other hand, turning down the NFL when you're virtually guaranteed to be a Top 20 pick is not an easy—and some would argue, smart—thing to do. Some guys take the money, but Lewan wants a final shot at helping his university enter college-football lore.
He'll get that chance, and be on all the preseason watch lists yet again as he strives for greatness both at his position and in helping Michigan reach new heights one final time.