The Wolverine

November 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NOVEMBER 2020 THE WOLVERINE 37 R edshirt junior Andrew Stueber was in a tight battle with then-redshirt freshman Jalen Mayfield for Michigan's starting right tackle job last year, but went down in fall camp with a torn ACL and missed the entire campaign. Now fully recovered, Stue- ber has slid over to the inte- rior and is heavily expected to earn Michigan's starting right guard spot as a redshirt junior. "I've played tackle most of my career here, but I did play a little left guard going into my sophomore year when [former U-M lineman] Ben Bredeson's knee swelled up," he told reporters on a Zoom call Oct. 1. "I really don't have a preference, because I'm all about whatever helps the unit and the team. "It has helped me playing tackle from a guard's per- spective. It's about getting the tech- nique down and helping the center." Mayfield originally decided to opt out of the 2020 campaign to prepare for the NFL Draft, before pulling a 180 and returning to Ann Arbor for his redshirt sophomore season. His return will give the Wolverines two players with starting experience on the right side of what is largely an in- experienced offensive line as a whole — Stueber opened the final two con- tests of 2018 at right tackle when former Wolverine Juwann Bushell- Beatty was injured. "[Our chemistry together] defi- nitely develops with every practice," Stueber said of Mayfield. "Since I've played tackle before, I know what he's looking for in a guard on a dou- ble block, for example. We're pretty much on the same page already." The redshirt junior went on to note that even though Mayfield is just a redshirt sophomore, he's neverthe- less a veteran thanks to the 13 starts he earned last year. He gives the col- lective group, not to mention his own draft stock — which began climbing with first-round projections after last season — a much higher ceiling in the fall, according to one informed offensive line observer. "For him, this is a big deal," former Michigan All-American blocker Jon Jansen, now with 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, said. "We saw him develop, improve, and the projections you hear from all draft gurus is he can be a first-round pick in 2021. He has talent and ability, but some of that is dependent on being able to see prog- ress in the 2020 season. "Now that he's opted back in and is going to play football, he'll have the opportunity to show what he's been working on, improved, how he's grown as player. His handwork, footwork, balance, pad level, aggres- sion, instincts — all those things he'll be able to show NFL general managers." The Maize and Blue will also have a new center starting to Stueber 's left following Cesar Ruiz's early de- parture to the NFL, with fifth-year senior Andrew Vastardis expected to win the job. He originally came to U-M as a walk-on in the 2016 re- cruiting class, but has bided his time and is even expected to earn captain status. "Andrew has been doing some really good things so far in camp," Stueber explained. "He's a very high-motor guy and is moving really well right now — Andrew is able to pull and move, and get up to linebackers to deliver the blow." The Darien, Conn., native concluded by admitting that Vastardis is like a "father fig- ure" to his peers, as well as a "model for the younger guys to look at." One of those younger play- ers — freshman lineman Zak Zinter — has received plenty of buzz in fall practice as well, thanks to the leg up he received on the playbook and the conditioning program when he enrolled early this past winter. "Zak has been bouncing around between guard and tackle," Stueber revealed. "We don't know exactly where we want to put him yet, but he's been doing really great things. "He's a big, strong kid and is really quick to learn, too. I love teaching him things since he'll pick it up right away. I can't wait to see where and how he contributes." Stueber added that Zinter has not only impressed his teammates and the U-M coaches with his perfor- mance on the field, but also "with his great attitude." Though he may not claim a rotation spot right away, Michigan will likely need Zinter 's boost sooner rather than later, with at least two starters expected to move on after this season in Vastardis and Mayfield. — Austin Fox MIKE SAINRISTIL HIGH ON U-M'S WIDE RECEIVERS With Tarik Black having trans- ferred to Texas, and Donovan Peo- ples-Jones and Nico Collins (report- edly) each having left early for the NFL, Michigan is slated to have just one scholarship receiver on its roster taller than 6-0 — sophomore Corne- lius Johnson, at 6-3. Receptions downfield were com-   MICHIGAN FOOTBALL The Offensive Line Is Coming Together Redshirt sophomore Jalen Mayfield is not the veteran of the U-M offensive line in age, but given his 13 starts last year he's the most experienced Wolverine up front. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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