ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Michigan football lost a possible starting offensive lineman this week as right tackle Andrew Stueber suffered a leg injury, Ed Warinner said.
"Andrew is a great kid," Warinner told former Michigan lineman Jon Jansen. "He was competing for the starting spot. He was doing a great job day in and day out, played in 13 games last year, so it really hurts you."
Warinner took over as Michigan's offensive line coach last season, and the group made dramatic improvements across the board. He returns four starters who each earned some form of All-Big Ten honor last season: left tackle Jon Runyan, left guard Ben Bredeson, center Cesar Ruiz and right guard Michael Onwenu.
Stueber, now a redshirt sophomore, filled in as a starter last season when right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty went down with an injury. He was battling with redshirt freshman Jalen Mayfield for the starting spot during camp.
Blow to Michigan's OL depth
"It's devastating emotionally to your team because he's one of the brothers of the team," Warinner said. "He's one of the leaders fighting to be a starter. But you realize in football these things happen and you've prepared other players and other guys to step in."
Mayfield now looks like the most likely option to join Runyan, Bredeson, Ruiz and Onwenu along the offensive line. Barring any other injuries, the unit should be among the best in the Big Ten, if not the nation.
But one of the strengths of Michigan's roster was the offensive line depth, and that took a big blow when Stueber went down.
"It took us a day to kind of get through that and emotionally recover from that," Warinner said. "The guys bounced back today and we were practicing, moving forward. We look forward to getting Andrew back as soon as we can. We're not sure when he'll be back, but we know he's working hard to get back as soon as possible."
Stueber's injury opens the door for other rotational players to enter the two-deep. Redshirt sophomore Chuck Filiaga and redshirt freshman Ryan Hayes seem like the logical next men up if there's another injury.
"We have a lot of good players developing behind Jon Runyan and Jalen Mayfield," Warinner said. "Ryan Hayes is the one who may be ahead of everybody right now. Ryan's versatile. He can play left side or right side. We moved Joel Honigford out to tackle. He's a long, athletic player."
The Wolverines also have capable veterans such as redshirt juniors Andrew Vastardis and Stephen Spanellis in the mix.
In a pinch, Warinner could turn to his true freshman class, which brought six offensive linemen to Ann Arbor: Trente Jones, Karsen Barnhart, Trevor Keegan, Zach Carpenter, Jack Stewart and Nolan Rumler.
"We also have Dan Jokisch on our team," Wariner said. "That is a guy that's been working in there at the second group at tackle, as well."
Jalen Mayfield steps in
Just two weeks until the opener against Middle Tennessee State, the battle between Stueber and Mayfield was still tight, according to Michigan's coaching staff.
"Jalen was competing day in and day out," Warinner said. "Over the course of the first 11 fall practices and all through spring they rotated 50-50 at that position, so this fall, it's been 50-50 rotating with the ones and twos."
Warinner said the two were "neck and neck" without much separation.
Mayfield appeared in three games at left tackle last season -- the blowout wins against Western Michigan, Nebraska and Maryland.
While he didn't have as much experience as Stueber heading into 2019, Mayfield had the advantage of playing in a high school offense that figures to be similar to the one new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis will run at Michigan.
Mayfield is likely more comfortable moving at a quicker pace and going full possessions without huddling.
"Jalen is a quality player," Warinner said. "(He's) athletic, fast, very competitive, learns well, so we're excited about him. He'll do a great job out there at tackle. He was a starter in our mind because we thought we had six starters. We just lost one. Right now we have five and then we'll continue to develop the backups to move forward from there."
You can listen to Jansen's full interview with Warinner below.
How do you deal with injury and depth on the offensive line? Here is Coach Ed Warinner (@4Warinner) with Jon Jansen (@JonJansen77) on the loss of Andrew Stueber to injury. pic.twitter.com/AyOK3NDUtx — Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) August 16, 2019
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