The award for the offensive lineman of the year in the Big Ten has a long and impressive history. This award has been given to some legendary figures like Steve Hutchison (Michigan Wolverines), Flozell Adams (Michigan State Spartans), Tony Mandarich (Michigan State), Robert Gallery (Iowa Hawkeyes) and Jake Long (Michigan), and never been awarded to a player who was soon forgotten or easily replaced.
This season, the man opposing offenses least wanted to see across the line from them was Taylor Lewan of the Michigan Wolverines. This is Lewan’s second consecutive season receiving the trophy. Many believed that he was a much more impressive offensive lineman a year ago, when he would have been a very high draft pick if he had left for the NFL.
An argument can be made that Lewan was asked to do much more for his offense this season than he was a year ago. In 2013, he was no longer a member of the offensive line — he was then man. He was the target of every defensive linemen and linebacker that the Wolverines faced this season. If a defensive adversary wanted to hang their hat on something in a matchup against the Wolverines, it would be getting off of a Lewan block and making a tackle.
Not did Lewan spend the season in the spotlight, he was also playing on an offensive line that was missing many key players as a result of injury. Lewan was asked to pick up the slack and do more than his share in the trenches. The offensive line is without a doubt the group of men who rely most upon one another to successfully complete their obligations during a football game, and Lewan was asked to do more with less in 2013.
Lewan was not ceremoniously given the award because of his accomplishments last season. He was forced to compete for the prize against many other very capable blockers in the Big Ten.
He and his fellow Wolverines were not the only team to suffer through the hardships of injuries this season. The Nebraska Cornhuskers‘ offensive line was also decimated by injuries in 2013. The Huskers lost senior Spencer Long early this season. He may have been one lineman, if given the opportunity, to give Lewan a run for his money.
The Ohio State Buckeyes also had a dominant offensive line this season that deserves recognition as a unit. The leader of their group up front was tackle Jake Mewhort. There were once again many strong candidates for the award this season, and even more young men who deserve recognition for stepping up for injured teammates in less-than-desirable circumstances.