Michigan knows who its starting right tackle will be in the opener against Middle Tennessee State. But this isn’t how anybody wanted the competition to end.
Junior Andrew Stueber is out indefinitely with a leg injury suffered during practice, a team spokesperson confirmed to The Daily on Thursday. Will Burchfield of 97.1 The Ticket first reported the news.
In terms of immediate impact, that means Jalen Mayfield will start at right tackle, rounding out a line that, from left to right, includes Jon Runyan Jr., Ben Bredeson, Cesar Ruiz and Mike Onwenu. This was the only spot with any sort of competition, as the other four helped make up one of the better lines in the Big Ten last year and is expected to do the same in 2019.
Mayfield, a redshirt freshman, played three games last year as Jim Harbaugh took advantage of the new rule permitting players to get in four games before burning their redshirts to get him reps. He generally looked good, though most of his snaps came on the left side. At Central Catholic High School, Mayfield played on both sides of the ball and put up strong numbers on defense, as well as on the basketball court. He was the No. 1 ranked player in Michigan by 247Sports in his class.
Though it’s not as if the Wolverines don’t have a starter with Stueber gone, his injury poses a real issue for them. Depending on the severity, it puts Mayfield in a position where he has little margin for error. The two seemed relatively even based on reports out of fall camp, and it’s more than conceivable that Stueber might have earned the starting job given that he came in with more experience.
“In my mind, we’ve got two starters in Jalen Mayfield and Andrew Stueber,” Josh Gattis told reporters last week. “Stueber, obviously, has started some games and played in some games, but when you’ve got four returning guys coming back that we have, we’ve got six starters up front in my opinion.”
If another injury occurs, Michigan will likely turn to one of Ryan Hayes, Chuck Filiaga or Stephen Spaniellis off the bench.
Until Stueber’s situation gains more clarity though, it will hope things don’t come to that.