Michigan's 'Tight' Offensive Line Group Is 'Pushing Each Other'
Four of Michigan football's starting offensive linemen from 2019 were selected in this past April's NFL Draft, which is a massive achievement for position coach Ed Warinner and a fact he and the rest of the Wolverines' coaches can drive home on the recruiting trail. Soon after the fall Big Ten season was postponed, redshirt sophomore right tackle Jalen Mayfield declared for the 2021 draft, meaning Warinner and Co. are now tasked with finding a fresh five to lead the Maize and Blue up front.
One of the most likely to be in that group is redshirt junior Andrew Stueber, who started two games in 2018 and was the favorite to start at right tackle ahead of 2019, before tearing his ACL in preseason camp, forcing him to miss the entire campaign.
Missing that time allowed Stueber to have an improved grasp on the offense, Stueber told Jon Jansen on his In The Trenches podcast this week.
“I’d definitely say that my understanding of the game of football improved,” Stueber said. “Seeing defenses, reading defenses and understanding them is a lot greater. I live with Dylan, the quarterback. So I’d always ask him about the defenses we’re playing each week, what he’s looking for. The mental game is a huge part of the game. So that was definitely something I took the time to improve in this time off."
Stueber said he's still rehabbing the knee and building up his strength, but it's feeling "real good."
"I was hoping to get into pads," Stueber said. "That was the final thing for me. I was fully cleared, I was ready to go, I was practicing with no hiccups. Pads was the final step, that was going to be the return to normal for me. But, unfortunately, we weren’t able to reach that. Just gotta wait for it, but it will come eventually.”
Stueber and his teammates were disappointed that the Big Ten postponed the fall season, but with the added time before the next season, the Wolverines have the luxury of being able to develop the next crop of talent in the trenches, while allowing the underclassmen to continue growing their understanding of the playbook and scheme. Stueber is optimistic about the group as a whole, especially the younger standouts.
"It’s a very tight offensive line room," he said. "You can tell a lot of the new, young talent is coming along. I love to see people growing every day, getting better, learning the playbook. I think now, especially with the time that we’ve had in quarantine, we’ve gone over the installs like four or five times, so everyone has a great understanding of the plays, what they have to do, the assignments.
"Now it’s just really a matter of technique and who can get their technique down the best. That’s a great thing to watch; you see people coming out every day and competing, getting their technique better, knowing what to do, trying to get the edge on them.
"It’s really pushing all of us, working harder, getting stronger, faster, because everyone understands what they do. That’s usually the biggest difference when you come in as a freshman, is learning the plays, so many assignments, so many adjustments. I think now, everybody has such a good grasp on it that so many people are competing at so many areas. It’s really an exciting time to be in that room."
Two Michigan Football Seasons In One Calendar Year?
There have been reports that the Big Ten is pursuing competition in the late-fall, winter or spring. Stueber explained that he and the Wolverines are willing and ready to play, but he still expressed some concerns with different aspects of the potential timeline.
"There’s some concerns I have with that, as far as the draft coming up, people’s eligibility," Stueber said. "And also, my biggest concern I have would be the turnaround period, because if you play … have camp in January, start playing, how many weeks will we get off? Will we still get a summer cycle for training, and then we pick back up for camp. The rest period aspect is the only concern that I have, really.
"As far as playing football, I think that the players just want to play. That’s what we want to do. If the season gets delayed a couple months, then so be it. If we do get to go out there and finally play some ball, I think everyone would be for it. Obviously I have some concerns timing-wise, but if everybody puts together a solid plan that the players approve, coaches approve and the board approves, it could definitely happen."
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