The Wolverine

November 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NOVEMBER 2020 THE WOLVERINE 29 again," Mayfield said. "They were a big part of it, especially the guys in my class that I came in with. We're all finally playing together, and it was just exciting to get that going. I'm happy to be back … I love to play football, and when it was taken away from me, it was kind of odd. I was faced with a bunch of decisions to make. "But I really wanted to play foot- ball. It got announced it was return- ing, and I really wanted to play the season with all the guys." Likewise, Michigan coaches were always ready to welcome him back, even when he remained in limbo. "Coach Warinner, Coach Gattis and Jim Harbaugh reached out to me, talking to me the whole time, even though they didn't know if we were having a season or not," May- field said. "They were still staying confident that we would, talking to me on a consistent basis. "When I said wanted to come back, I talked to Coach Warinner and Coach Gattis. They were excited to have me back and welcoming. Coach Harbaugh was ecstatic. He was very happy, always supportive. … He was happy to have me back, and I know I'm happy to be back." Those close to Michigan football push back on the notion that it's all new faces beyond Mayfield. They do so with good reason, given the game experience of some projected starters. "You've got a guy like Ryan Hayes, who has started games and who has played in a number of games for us," Gattis said. "Andrew Stueber is an- other veteran presence." Stueber indicated during an ap- pearance on "Inside Michigan Football" that he's infinitely more grounded in the finer points of his craft now than in the past. Moving inside from tackle to guard added to his grasp of the big picture. "It's understanding what I like as a tackle, what I wanted from the guard for double-team blocks, for protec- tion," Stueber said. "It really helped me know this is how I can help the tackle the best. This is how I can situ- ate my blocks to help the tackle and help the center the best. Getting that understanding from both positions has really helped me." He also noted Michigan's practices have been intense, with the season fast approaching. "I'm seeing a lot of people that are just really hungry to compete," Stue- ber said. "The past couple of years, we've had some definite starters that have rolled over year to year. And that really accounts for a good legacy. "But this year, I think everyone's hungry. Every- one wants to come out and make a name for themselves. Every practice is kind of the make or break." Warinner makes his top practice players a matter of public record via social media, incentivizing younger players in the ongoing battles and certifying the veterans already men- tioned. Among his "Technicians of the Day," Vastardis, Stueber and Hayes have received multiple mentions, while Filiaga, Mayfield and redshirt sophomore walk-on Griffin Korican have also made the list. In the "Effort of the Day" category, Vastardis once again checks in with multiple mentions, while others drawing notice include freshman center Reece Atteberry, Barnhart, Jones, Korican, Stueber, redshirt ju- nior tackle Joel Honigford and fresh- man Zak Zinter. Harbaugh likes how it's all com- ing together up front, and made that clear recently. "Overall, there's a real chance, a real hope that our offensive line could be bigger, could be more ath- letic and could be just as talented as what we've had in the past. The key is for them to jell," he said. "I'm very, very excited. I feel really optimistic about our offensive line." Mayfield shares that excitement. He's glad to be back, and sees the same potential in a crew he hopes to help lead. "Just the fact that this unit is so connected, and we're all friends … to build a great team, you've got to have some sort of unity within groups of the team," Mayfield said. "I feel like the communica- tion between players and coaches has been as high as it's been. I'm just ex- cited to get it started." ❏ UPSIDE AND THE OTHER SIDE UP FRONT All eyes will be on the Wolverines' offensive line early. Here's both sides of that coin: Biggest Strength: Jalen Mayfield's return means plenty. The Wolverines will have someone in the huddle for the offensive line who has per- formed — and performed well — in the biggest game of all. He'll make sure everyone knows what it takes. Biggest Concern: Offensive co- ordinator Josh Gattis noted it's not about individual efforts for an offen- sive line — it's how everyone plays together. That remains to be seen, and there aren't any warm-ups for a lineup with nearly all new start- ers. They'll have to hit the ground pounding, so others can run. — John Borton With only one returning starter up front, the Wolverines will be relying on new faces in the trenches. The most surprising expected starter may be fifth-year senior and former walk-on Andrew Vastardis at center. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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