Position battles to watch this spring: No. 1

Spring football started Tuesday, so the competition for positions is well underway. This week, we’re counting down the five position battles that you should also keep an eye on over the next month. We've counted this down for a week, though you probably knew exactly which position would take the cake at No. 1.

No. 1: left tackle

Who’s in the mix: Erik Magnuson (injured), David Dawson, Dan Samuelson

What to watch: Of the top five position battles to watch, three have been on the offensive line, which makes sense considering the 2013 performance. The O-line needs to see some change going in to next season. They say if there’s youth on a line, it’s best to have it on the outside. If that’s the case, then the Wolverines are in good shape. It’s more than likely the Wolverines will be starting underclassmen at both tackle spots. Yesterday we looked at the struggles in replacing a three-year starter on the right side, but it’s an even bigger challenge to replace a four-year starter on the left side, QB Devin Gardner’s blind side.

Replacing Taylor Lewan isn’t going to be easy. The All-American started 48 consecutive games at left tackle for the Wolverines. He graded out with his best year of football during this past season and now the Wolverines will have to search for his replacement. Magnuson was the frontrunner but will miss the spring season while rehabbing from shoulder surgery. At 6-foot-6, 295 pounds Magnuson is a bit smaller than Lewan (6-8, 315), but is agile and athletic. Last season he played in 12 games and recorded seven starts at guard, which will only help his future as a tackle. Since he has experience at both positions, he’ll better know the nuances of the line as a whole, which will only help the chemistry of the left side of the line. However, with him sitting out for the spring, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said that Dawson has been taking reps with the first group. He’s a shorter option than the other tackles (6-4, 295) but assuming Magnuson comes back 100 percent, Dawson could likely be repping with the twos at either tackle spot. Samuelson is another option at tackle for the Wolverines. The rising redshirt freshman is 6-5 and 282 pounds.

The countdown: