Land of 10 has embarked on a series of Next Generation articles, a project that aims to bring our readers greater insight into the Class of 2018 signees. Land of 10 Michigan reporters Rachel Lenzi and Kevin Goheen are visiting the incoming Michigan freshman class. Throughout the year leading up to their debuts, Land of 10 will introduce the Michigan fan base to the newest Wolverines. Today we feature tackle Jalen Mayfield.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — There is opportunity on the Michigan offensive line. Jalen Mayfield knows it.
The 2018 Michigan signee realizes nothing will be handed to him, but with the unknown the Wolverines have at the tackle position Mayfield isn’t resigned to a redshirt freshman season. He’s thinking much bigger.
“I fully expect to play,” Mayfield told Land of 10. “I hope nobody beats me out. I know they want to play as much as I do, so I’m going to put my all into it and we’ll see how it comes out.”
Mayfield was an U.S. Army All-American last season after leading Grand Rapids Catholic Central to its second straight Michigan Division 4 state title. He’s been a lifelong fan of the Wolverines and loves the fact that the rivalry with Notre Dame is being renewed as the season opener on Sept. 1.
He wants to be front-and-center for that renewal in South Bend.
“Opening up and renewing the rivalry there is going to be one of the biggest [games],” Mayfield said. ”Hopefully it’ll be my first game playing. It’s my intention to be doing that.”
Starting the first game as a freshman on the offensive line for Michigan is rare. Mason Cole is the only player in program history to accomplish the feat. Cole ended his Michigan career with 51 consecutive starts between left tackle and center before the Arizona Cardinals selected him in the third round of the NFL draft last month.
Mayfield is 6-foot-6 and bulked up to 290 pounds this offseason, although bulk is a relative term for him. College coaches and scouts wondered aloud to GRCC coach Todd Kolster whether Mayfield would be able to put on the weight necessary to play at a high Division I level. That never was a doubt to Kolster, who was an offensive coordinator at Grand Valley State University under current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and current Miami (Ohio) coach Chuck Martin.
“His sophomore year, that’s what people were saying. Will he weigh enough? Will he be big enough?” Kolster said. “I’m like, ‘Jeezle Pete! — how do you not think that kid’s going to be big enough?’ I told them by the time he gets out of here in high school he’s probably going to be 290. He’s going to be 310, 315, 320 playing athletically at a good weight. He can easily carry 310-to-315 of good weigh and play athletically.
“Barring anything crazy, if he puts his mind to it, I don’t think there’s nothing standing in his way of being an NFL draft pick. I really believe that.”
Just how Michigan’s offensive front will line up is an educated guess, given the general public and media have not seen the Wolverines play since the Outback Bowl loss against South Carolina. The best speculation is that sophomore Cesar Ruiz will start at center with junior Ben Bredeson at left guard and junior Michael Onwenu at right guard.
There are plenty of candidates for the two tackle spots. Fifth-year senior Juwann Bushell-Beatty, redshirt junior Jon Runyan, redshirt sophomore Stephen Spanellis and redshirt freshmen Chuck Filiaga, Andrew Stueber and James Hudson are in the mix.
Mayfield expects to battle for a starting job as well when he arrives on campus June 23. It will be a family battle.
“My official visit host was Chuck Filiaga,” Mayfield said. “Me and him hit it off pretty well. Cesar Ruiz, me and him talk all the time. Bredeson is an awesome guy. I think the offensive line, as a whole group, was really welcoming and excited for me to get there. They’re really encouraging and want me to do great.
“They understand it’s football. At all schools in the country there’s going to be competition, but it will be more than that. We’re going to be family there.”