Michigan football doesn’t have any games to look forward to, so it created an event of its own.
The team will hold its own NFL-like combine in October, Aidan Hutchinson and Ben Mason said on a call with reporters Thursday. Per the Detroit News, the date will be Oct. 24.
“We’ve just been embracing it,” Hutchinson, a junior defensive end, said. “Definitely there were some changes to practice that we’ve never done before. We all had to get used to it, we’re about a week and a half, two weeks into this practice cycle, so we’ve all pretty much adjusted and we’re all just attacking it every day.”
There’s still bitter disappointment inside Schembechler Hall that the Big Ten postponed its season. But, a few weeks removed, there’s also an understanding that they can’t dwell on it forever. Michigan didn’t stop practicing beside a couple days in the immediate aftermath — in the same meeting where coach Jim Harbaugh informed the team the season would be postponed, Hutchinson said he made a point of saying they would practice that day.
That, quintessentially, is Harbaugh. So is this idea, one that will give his players something to work toward, goals to hit and reasons to get better at football.
“The best medicine, as coach Harbaugh says, is on the field,” Mason, a senior fullback, said. “That’s really true because ever since I was a little kid actually, when you play football that gets your mind off of a lot of things. It actually is therapeutic.”
Though Jalen Mayfield has already declared for the NFL Draft, Michigan has a number of players that have yet to decide anything, Hutchinson among them. On Thursday, Hutchinson said that decision will hinge on a number of factors that have yet to be made clear, including when the Wolverines play their next football game. Options such as playing in the spring, or playing a winter season in domed stadiums, have been discussed. But no plan has been made public.
So, on Aidan Hutchinson’s calendar, Oct. 24 is the only known date that he’ll get to do anything in front of NFL scouts.
That means for him — as well as tight end Nick Eubanks, defensive tackle Carlo Kemp, defensive end Kwity Paye and wide receiver Nico Collins — the event could go a long way in determining their futures. Even for younger players, it will serve a purpose.
“It gets them ready when their opportunity does come to perform at a pro day or combine,” Mason said. “They’re gonna have the feeling of what it’s like to be under the bright lights. It’s just you on the line, ready to run the 40, under the tabs, ready to jump for the vertical jump. You’ve done it not only in your head multiple times but you’ve done it in person, in front of people, in front of scouts.”
Nothing can really replace a 12-game season though. Hutchinson, in particular, still has animosity for Kevin Warren, and the fact that Warren’s own son is still playing a season at Mississippi State.
“I’d be thrilled to play football in January, April or May,” Hutchinson said. “I don’t care when we play football.”
Mason’s answer, when asked about the possibility of the season at a later date, lasted only seconds.
“Give us the date,” he said, “and we’ll be there.”