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Hutchinson ready for next step

With obvious needs along the offensive line, the New England Patriots will likely keep a close watch on the status of University of Michigan guard Steve Hutchinson as the NFL draft unfolds this year.

Hutchinson, who measured at 6-5 and 315 pounds at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last weekend, had a very impressive college career that included four All-Big Ten First-Team honors as selected by the media. He was a first-team pick by the conference coaches three times, and a second-team pick as a freshman.

As a fifth-year senior, Hutchinson teamed with fellow four-year starters Jeff Backus and David Brandt to anchor a dominant offensive line in Ann Arbor. Three months ago, the Wolverine line paved the way for quarterback Drew Henson's 1-yard touchdown run that clinched Michigan's 40th Big 10 Conference championship in a 38-26 win over Ohio State.

The big lineman knows he has plenty of learning to do, but he is confident he can make the step to the pro level.

"I am going to go in with the attitude that I'm going to have to work hard," Hutchinson said. "I'm going to be a rookie and I won't know the ropes, but I want to help my team in any way I can."

In his career at Michigan, Hutchinson allowed just one sack, despite playing almost all of the 1999 season with an injured shoulder. One advantage Hutchinson has that will help him adjust to the NFL is experience in the pro style offense used by the Wolverines.

"To come out and lead an offense that had the balanced stats that we did this year – averaging more than 200 yards rushing and also throwing the ball each game to help us win the Big 10 championship, we made our mark," Hutchinson said.

With his size, skill and experience, Hutchinson appears ready to make his mark at the next level too.

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