The Wolverine

October 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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20 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2020 M ichigan redshirt sophomore right tackle Jalen Mayfield rose to first-round projections on some analysts' boards af- ter a breakout season last year, winning his battle against elite Ohio State defensive end Chase Young to put himself on the map. Young, the No. 2 overall pick a year ago, was held in check against the Wolverines, and May- field was a big reason why. Mayfield had no plans but to return to U-M despite seeing his name No. 14 on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s big board this summer, hoping to build on his first year on the field. Instead, the pandemic and uncertainty around Big Ten football after the conference announced a post- ponement on Aug. 11 led him to declare for the draft. "I never really wanted to opt out," Mayfield told The Huge Show Sept. 2. "I was always hopeful that the season would come. I had pretty big goals set for this year. I was planning on at least attempting to reach those goals this year. "Probably the first time I really sat down and thought about it was the day of the cancellation. I really just had to talk with my family and see what was best for me." His father told The Detroit Free Press Sept. 16 that his son would not reconsider, insisting an eight-game Big Ten season wouldn't be enough to change his mind. Two days later, however, sources told TheWolverine. com Mayfield had opted back in, and he confirmed it. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis was one of the first to congratulate him, tweeting, "Let's go!!! This sea- son will be special for you!!!" The 6-5, 320-pounder had signed with an agent and was slated to go to California to train starting the week of Sept. 21. Instead, he will await NCAA clearance to return — most believe it's a formality for all of the Big Ten players who have declared due to the circumstances — and should be one of the conference's best linemen. He said this summer he was ex- cited to prove last year was no fluke. "The [NFL interest] is crazy, but I just want to get back out there and play," he said. "I definitely have it in the back of my mind, but a lot of stuff can change over one year of play. I've just got to focus on repeating do- ing the good stuff I did last year and build upon it." — Chris Balas DYLAN MCCAFFREY TO TRANSFER, TWO OTHERS OPT OUT, KWITY PAYE TO RETURN Michigan redshirt junior Dylan Mc- Caffrey, once considered the frontrun- ner to win the starting quarterback job this fall, has decided to opt out of the 2020 season and will seek a transfer. Several rumors about his status sur- faced only weeks after he and his par- ents helped lead a "we want to play" protest at Michigan Stadium Sept. 5. "The decision came out and it seemed, from our point of view, a little shady," McCaffrey said at the protest. "We didn't hear anything. We were getting our information from Twitter, and we're the ones it's directly affecting, unfortunately. We just feel the decision was made by a bunch of people it didn't directly affect." He noted he'd waited four years for his chance and was ready to play. He now plans to wait it out for another year after graduating from U-M in December. Michigan senior cornerback Ambry Thomas, meanwhile, said Sept. 16 the door might be open for a return after he signed with an agent to prepare for the NFL Draft, but it doesn't seem likely. His prep coach, Detroit King's Terel Patrick, said Sept. 17 he didn't think his former standout would return. "No," he said. "I've talked to him about four or five days in a row. He said, 'Coach, I was in the hospital for two months last year [with colitis].'" That was one thing Thomas was struggling with in thinking about returning during a pan- demic. He had seemed to open the door a bit on a SiriusXM radio in- terview with former U-M great Jon Jansen after the Big Ten announced football would return in the fall. "I'm hearing certain things … that I can come back. I'm hearing other things that I can't," Thomas said. "A whole bunch of uncertainty still from my end, and those answers would clear everything up for me." Thomas has been in contact with the Michigan coaching staff since Sept. 16, when the league announced its decision. "I talked to a couple of my coaches earlier," Thomas said. "They said they'd get at me later; they want to talk, see what I'm thinking. Basi- cally, the conversations we're kind of having … I'm going to express some of my concerns still, see how that would even go about knowing I've already signed with an agent." Patrick strongly believed Thomas will continue to prepare for the draft. There has been no word on a po- tential Nico Collins return after reported he had signed with agent Drew Rosenhaus. Collins said MICHIGAN FOOTBALL Jalen Mayfield Decides To Return After Declaring For The NFL Draft Mayfield was widely projected as a future first-round NFL Draft pick this summer and originally opted out of the Big Ten's postponed season when they were going to play in the spring, but has decided to come back and play when football returns in late October. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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