Since last week, when the Big Ten postponed its season, leaving open the question of whether it would try to play in the spring or call things off altogether, Nick Eubanks has been talking with the same group of guys.
Michigan doesn’t have a ton of old guys, he said, but himself, Carlo Kemp, Kwity Paye, Aidan Hutchinson and Chris Evans have decisions to make. Eubanks and Kemp chose to come back for a fifth year in the spring, when they thought there would be a season. Paye chose to come back for his senior year. Hutchinson, a junior, is eligible for the NFL Draft and coming off a year in which he made Third Team All-Big Ten with 3.5 sacks and emerged as a leader.
All of them are sorting through the wreckage now, trying to figure out whether to play a spring season that may not happen — and may complicate playing an NFL season in the fall of 2021 if it does — or enter the NFL Draft. Junior tackle Jalen Mayfield became Michigan’s first player to enter the draft on Tuesday. This group may not have a decision for a while. With the NCAA yet to make a decision on eligibility, who could blame them.
“Right now I’m gonna stick around and just train for a couple of months and see where it goes from there in terms of me making a decision,” Eubanks said. “Whether or not it is a spring season or not, I think I’ll make my decision by then and see where I go from there.”
Kemp indicated he’s looking to the spring right now.
“Personally, for me, it’s spring, what’s coming up,” Kemp said. “My mindset and the way I’m focused is what’s next, and that’s spring for me. Hopefully being able to get that opportunity with Kwity and Aidan and a bunch of the guys we still have on this team.”
Eubanks said he thinks that if one player in that group decides something, the others will soon follow. They’re a tight-knit bunch.
For Michigan, if there is a chance to play football in the spring, it’s also a group that would make up its leaders. The Wolverines hadn’t announced team captains when the season got postponed and it wouldn’t make much sense to do so now, but Hutchinson, Kemp, Paye and Eubanks all could have gotten the honor. (Evans missed the 2019 season due to an academic issue).
Hutchinson, Paye and Kemp would have made up 75 percent of the defensive line and a whole lot of production. Eubanks is the only tight end returning with starting experience. Evans is the only upperclassman in the running backs room after Christian Turner opted out of the season.
If they leave, that’s not easy to replace.
But leaving would mean entering the NFL Draft without putting anything new on tape for over a year. While players in the SEC, ACC and Big 12 will — barring cancellation — get a chance to prove themselves this year, Michigan’s players are left choosing between two bad options.
“That’s definitely something that you think about, just because every player wants fresh film, and right now, we don’t have that shot and it looks like other conferences will,” Kemp said. “So it’s just, what are you going to do in the meantime?”
Players are still doing workouts and practices under the 20-hour rule, but it’s not clear exactly what they’re building up to. They’ll continue to do so as long as that’s allowed. That doesn’t mean it’s a substitute for a game.
“Every day I walk into Schembechler Hall and just being around the team, you get that sensation about just kinda trying to give it one more shot,” Eubanks said. “Even if things don’t go well or do go well, that’s something I think about a lot.”