Top players to watch this spring: No. 2

Spring ball starts on Feb. 25, and until then we’re going to be taking looks at different players, position groups and parts of the team to keep an eye on as the Wolverines wind through their month of spring practices. We continue today with No. 2

No. 2: LT Ben Braden

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 318 pounds

2013 statistics: appeared in two games as a reserve offensive lineman

The offensive line is the position group that will need to make the biggest jump during this spring season, but the left tackle position -- which had been occupied by Taylor Lewan for four seasons -- is now open.

The Wolverines struggled this season by having youth on the interior and veterans at the tackles, however, next season the exact opposite will be true. The interior offensive linemen will presumably be the most experienced of the line, while the tackle spots will likely be occupied by redshirt freshmen with limited experience.

Going into the spring, Braden is expected to compete at the left tackle spot, looking to fill Lewan’s shoes. His biggest competition was expected to be fellow redshirt freshman Erik Magnuson, but Magnuson will miss spring football due to a shoulder surgery he underwent this winter.

Braden can use this spring season to establish himself as the top left tackle so that when the fall rolls around, he’s still running with the first group. He’s a bit smaller than Lewan (Lewan played his senior season at 6-foot-8, 315 pounds) but can use his athleticism on the outside to keep his QB safe.

The offensive line’s improvement will be of paramount concern this spring as Doug Nussmeier works to mesh his offense with the arsenal of players in Ann Arbor. As displayed by the Wolverines this season, no offense can get going unless the offensive line is being effective. And for the first time in four years, the Wolverines will be questioning who will effective for them at left tackle.

The countdown: