Ed Warinner Talks Stueber's Status, Mayfield, Hayes & More
Michigan Wolverines football will be replacing four starters along the offensive line in 2020, with Ben Bredeson, Jon Runyan and Mike Onwenu graduating, and Cesar Ruiz entering the NFL Draft after his junior season.
The only returner from the starting group will be redshirt sophomore tackle Jalen Mayfield, who started all 13 games at the right tackle spot in 2019.
"Jalen started every game, and he had a great trajectory," U-M offensive line coach Ed Warinner told Jon Jansen on the In The Trenches podcast. "Sometimes, guys that are starting for the first time can flat line in the middle of the season and not continue to grow, but he played his best football in November for us. If you go back and watch the tape against Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State and Alabama, he played high level football.
"We’re really pleased with his development, and it took a lot of hard work. He was a very diligent guy about coming in, doing extra film, doing extra field work. He would go out early to practice, stay late after practice. He would do extra stuff on the off day. Jalen worked hard to get himself to a very solid Big Ten player."
The next goal for Mayfield is to take the next step in his technical development.
"What we’re working on with him is just continuing to grow and develop with his hands and use of his hands, because they allow you to use your hands legally. That’s still an area I think he can get better at. When players are thinking about what to do and how to do it, they forget about their footwork. So, we just want to keep drilling the footwork with him. Good footwork, good hands, and Jalen will continue to grow as a player."
Redshirt sophomore tackle Ryan Hayes started the first two games of the season at left tackle in 2019, while Runyan was recovering from an injury. He went on to play in all 13 games, coming off the bench in the next 11.
"We’re very fortunate Ryan got quite a bit of playing time as a backup. He started two games and played very solid in those two games. He was the player of the game for the Middle Tennessee game. And then, Jon came back, and he had a role in there and played in every game. We even started using him in short yardage goal line, wearing a tight end jersey number and putting him in there.
"What we’ve talked to him about, is most of his improvement needs to be in physical development through nutrition and Herb and the weight room. Again, just working footwork, pad level, things like that that we can work with him, but he has a chance to be a really good player, too.
"If he can get from 295 pounds to 310, 315, this offseason, and get stronger, I’m confident he’ll have a solid offseason and be ready to go."
Warinner said that the plan, right now, is for Mayfield to stay at right tackle, while Hayes slots in on the left side.
"That’s where they feel most comfortable," Warinner said. "But, I truly believe Ryan is better in the left-handed stance, playing on the left side, than Jalen is. So, I think we got them right where they need to be. We’re going to start with those guys there, and then build from there."
Besides Mayfield, the other Wolverine with starting experience is redshirt junior Andrew Stueber, who missed the entire 2019 season with a torn ACL, after starting the final two games in 2018. While he likely won't be 100 percent by spring practice, which starts March 18, he will be healthy for the start of the season.
"His rehab is going well, everything is going well," Warinner said of Stueber's recovery. "He might be available in spring on a limited basis, but the one thing I don’t want to do is rush him back. I mean, he’ll be kind of right on the edge of when he could or could not compete full-go in contact when spring ball is going on. We’ll be really cautious with him, but we’ll try to do as much as we can do without putting him in harm’s way, because we don’t want to lose him again and then we’ve lost him for the season. We’ll just get him back in the swing in spring, but I don’t see him being involved in scrimmaging or full-go competition."
U-M signed a large offensive line class in 2019, bringing in six guys for Warinner to work with. Redshirt freshmen Karsen Barnhart, Zach Carpenter, Trente Jones, Trevor Keegan, Nolan Rumler and Jack Stewart all played in four games or less in 2019, preserving their redshirts.
Warinner shared what he's seen so far out of those guys, and the other returning backups that may vie for starting jobs in 2020.
"Karsen Barnhart seemed to step to the forefront," Warinner said. "He stayed healthy, learned and played well. He was the backup left tackle to Runyan quite a bit, as Ryan Hayes was really playing behind Jalen. Karsen is a flexible guy. I could see him playing tackle or guard, either side, right or left. He’ll have a chance to fit in there into the top five.
"The guy who was the scout team player of the year, Zach Carpenter, really started to shine and show some things. He got hurt early in August and missed two or three weeks there with an ankle, and once he came back, got healthy and got rolling, he really showed that he can be an outstanding center. He’ll be in there at the center position with Andrew Vastardis, a fifth-year senior that was our backup center this past year. Vastardis and Carpenter are probably working at center."
"You got [redshirt junior guard] Chuck Filiaga in there," Warinner said. "He’s got all the tools, big man, really working hard. Loved what he did in bowl practice. I thought his December bowl practices really helped him in my mind, and he took it serious, got himself ready to go and made himself a better player, so I see Chuck having a legitimate chance to be a starting guard for us. He has flexibility, right side, left side.
"Trevor Keegan is another guy who has a ton of talent. He got a lot of reps in the two-deep in the bowl prep. That was what was nice about the bowl prep was Barnhart gets a lot of reps, Carpenter a lot of reps, Keegan a lot of reps, Nolan Rumler got a lot of reps, Chuck got a lot of reps, Ryan Hayes. Those are the guys that we kind of see at the forefront of the pack right now in terms of the youth. Very talented, very tough guys, very committed, so just seeing who catches on the fastest, who starts to play the best. They’ll compete it out, and it will be fun to watch. I’m excited, because as a coach, when guys are getting better, that’s when you really get excited."
On The Trio Of Incoming Freshmen Offensive Linemen
The Wolverines signed three freshmen offensive linemen in the 2020 recruiting class, Reece Atteberry, Jeffrey Persi and Zak Zinter. All three are versatile in what positions they can play, and they also have a common theme: height. They're all over 6-foot-5, and Warinner said recruiting guys with more height is part of the strategy as U-M now runs a spread offense.
"We’re a spread team, so there’s a lot more one-on-one matchups in the run game and the passing game," Warinner pointed out. "Athleticism, length; we’ve started to recruit those guys. We’ve started to build our depth chart with those guys. We brought in Jeff Persi from California. He’s 6-7, we’ve got Ryan Hayes, he’s 6-7. Stueber was already here, but he’s 6-7. Zak Zinter, he’s going to get some work in spring [as an early enrollee]. It’s going to be fun to watch him, because his January has really impressed a lot of people in the strength room — his measurables, his numbers. He looks really good. He’ll get a lot of reps. He’s 6-foot-6. Reece Atteberry is a center / guard, and he’s 6-5. All guys taller than our previous guys. Mike, Cesar, Jon and Ben were all 6-4 or less. These guys are all over 6-4, so we’re trying to get a little bit more length as you get into more of the passing game and using your arm length and length to protect the quarterback."
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