Junior center Cesar Ruiz has elected to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft.

“I would like to thank the University of Michigan for helping craft me into the man I am today,” Ruiz said in a statement on his Twitter account. “It is truly an honor to be able to wear the maize and blue. … Since the day I touched a football, I knew I wanted to play in the National Football League. It’s always been my dream, and now I am ready to make that dream a reality.”

Ruiz emerged as one of the best centers in the Big Ten in his second season as a starter, being named to the All-Big Ten second team by coaches and an honorable mention by the media. He rated out as the best pass-blocking center in the country by Pro Football Focus.

His loss will sting for an offensive line already suffering heavy losses in Jon Runyan, Ben Bredeson and Michael Onewnu — all of whom have exhausted their eligibility. Ruiz started the last 26 games at center for Michigan, leaving a lack of a ready-made replacement. However, offensive line coach Ed Warinner has proven capable of developing talent, and the Wolverines have signed star-studded offensive line classes the past two years.

Among likely replacements for Ruiz is redshirt junior Andrew Vastardis, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship this year. Vastardis appeared in five games at center in 2019. Redshirt sophomore Chuck Filiaga has played exclusively guard with Michigan but has the ability to make a position switch. Freshmen Zach Carpenter and Nolan Rumler, who can play guard or center, could also compete for the job.

Draft analyst Dane Brugler ranked Ruiz as his No. 9 interior offensive line prospect, though most mock drafts do not have him ranked in the top 100 players. He will likely be a mid-round pick in April.

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