Michigan Football: Taylor Lewan's Draft Status Rides on Outback Bowl Performance

Zach DirlamSenior Analyst IIDecember 25, 2012

Taylor Lewan might not be back for a fifth year with the Michigan Wolverines.
Taylor Lewan might not be back for a fifth year with the Michigan Wolverines.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines already know they will have to replace three starting offensive linemen for the 2013 season, and left tackle Taylor Lewan would be wise to leave a year early if he holds his own against arguably the nation's top defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, in the Outback Bowl.

Lewan is currently undecided about whether or not he will enter the 2013 NFL draft, even though ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr. projects the 2012 Big Ten Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award winner as the No. 13 overall prospect

Additionally, Lewan is expected to be taken in the first round and either the second or third offensive tackle to be selected in the draft.

"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," Kiper said according to the Detroit Free Press. "The Michigan situation, with Michigan producing a lot of offensive tackles for the NFL, certainly helps."

However, due to the mediocrity of the Big Ten Conference over the past couple of seasons, the level of competition Lewan has faced during his time with the Wolverines has not exactly been daunting.

Clowney and the South Carolina Gamecocks defensive front will be Lewan's toughest matchup to date, and given how the 2011 SEC freshman of the year projects at the next level, the New Year's Day tilt on the left side of the line of scrimmage could significantly impact the Scottsdale, Ariz. native's draft stock.

If Clowney dominates Lewan and adds to his monstrous stats, which feature 13 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss, the Wolverines could see the 6'8", 309-pounder plummet to the latter portion of the first round and bring the Chaparral High School alum back for a fifth season in Ann Arbor.

In the end, though, Lewan should be able to hold Clowney off for much of the Wolverines battle with the Gamecocks in Tampa and will more than likely bolt for the NFL.

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