When Michigan begins its season on Oct. 24, it will do so with one of its top prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft.
On Friday afternoon, Rivals reported that offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield was hoping to opt back into the 2020 season after originally declaring for the draft in August. Mayfield seemed to confirm the news on Twitter shortly afterward with a shoutout to quarterback Joe Milton.
Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis also tweeted about the development. “Let’s go!!! This season will be special for you!!!
Although Mayfield has expressed his desire to return now that the Big Ten has reversed course and decided to play this fall after all, he and receiver Nico Collins will still need approval from the NCAA to play. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, Mayfield signed with an agent after opting out, which would normally render a player ineligible. Attorney Tom Mars has expressed that players like Mayfield would likely have a good argument to be reinstated given that the Big Ten originally said that their decision to postpone the fall season would not be revisited. According to The Athletic, Mayfield is still enrolled in online classes for the fall semester, which would clear another eligibility hurdle.
Mayfield is not the only Big Ten player who originally declared for the draft who is now hoping to opt back in. Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman is also hoping to gain eligibility. A statement put out by the Golden Gophers’ football program today indicated that Bateman has been allowed to practice with the team, but they are still working to get him cleared by the NCAA to play.
Before news broke of Mayfield’s intention to return, Gattis expressed on Twitter that players like Bateman and Mayfield should be able to opt back in if they so choose.
“Players who opted out to prepare for the NFL should all be reinstated without penalty regardless of what they accepted it’s not a competitive advantage,” the tweet read. “However these agents offering these young men money to leave school in the fall show they don’t have a post NFL plan for you!”
If the Wolverines can get Mayfield back, it will be a boon for a team that looked like it would have to break in five new offensive linemen this fall. Mayfield, who started at right tackle in 2019, held his own against Ohio State’s Chase Young. He is widely considered one of Michigan’s top draft prospects and ranked in the top 50 of CBS Sports’ Big Board. Should Mayfield be ruled eligible, his skill and experience will help anchor the young unit.
It remains to be seen whether the other Michigan players who have opted out — cornerback Ambry Thomas, Collins and running back Christian Turner — will choose to opt back in.