Key to 2012: No. 4 Taylor Lewan

Left tackle Taylor Lewan is the Wolverines' best NFL offensive line prospect since Jake Long. Andrew Weber/US Presswire

Over the next two weeks, WolverineNation will break down the 10 players who need to play to the peak of their abilities for Michigan to have its best possible season, going from 10 all the way to No. 1.

Taylor Lewan is Michigan’s most experienced offensive lineman and the best professional prospect the Wolverines have had along the offensive line since another dominant left tackle played for the Wolverines, Jake Long.

Lewan, though, still has a lot of room to improve. While he is one of the best overall blockers in the Big Ten, he has never had to be the leader of the offensive line, having Stephen Schilling around two seasons ago and David Molk last season. Both now are with the San Diego Chargers, leaving Lewan to do more than just play his position. And with a first-time starter next to him at left guard and fifth-year senior Ricky Barnum still growing into the center slot in his first season starting there, it will be up to Lewan to work on the cohesiveness of the unit.

For Lewan, that has meant a more serious approach both in his demeanor on the field and in speaking with the media. He has often said he will be more “vanilla” this season, although bits and pieces of his oversized personality still shine through. On the field, he spent last season working hard to eliminate personal foul penalties that plagued him during his freshman season.

He needs to continue that arc and not regress for Michigan to have success this season. Protecting Denard Robinson’s blind side and also moving the pocket enough to give his senior quarterback time to decide whether to run or pass comes with all of that.