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Ryan Hayes’ breakout adds a new variable to Michigan’s tackle situation

A new contender has entered the arena for the Michigan offensive line.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 29 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Florida v Michigan Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Hayes was one of the breakout performers of Michigan Football’s 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee state while getting the start at left tackle for Jon Runyan Jr. Head coach Jim Harbaugh told the media on Monday afternoon that Hayes graded out right up there with Cesar Ruiz and Ben Bredeson in terms of his performance and was named the team’s offensive player of the game.

The redshirt freshman got the start in relief of fifth-year senior Jon Runyan Jr., who dressed but did not play on Saturday with an injury. Hayes did not allow a single quarterback pressure in 33 dropbacks on Saturday night. Harbaugh was impressed enough that it opened the door for Hayes to stick in the lineup even when Runyan returns.

“That’s a good question. That’s something that we’ll address,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “Jon (Runyan) is arguably our best lineman. If not our best, arguably our second. Arguably our third with Cesar (Ruiz) and Ben (Bredeson). And then (Michael Onwenu) as well. We’ll see, though. Really impressed with Ryan. It’s a meritocracy all the way, there the ability to compete at the other tackle spot? I’m sure. Does that open up options if he’s come this far and is playing this well? That bodes well for the team.”

Harbaugh’s comments leave open the possibility that a position battle could emerge between Hayes and fellow redshirt freshman Jalen Mayfield, who is starting at right tackle. Mayfield played well for most of the night, but did have a handful of struggles here and there.

Being that it is a “meritocracy,” if Hayes continues to play well, Mayfield may once again be in a battle for his job, as he was all spring and summer with Andrew Stueber, who is lost for the season to a torn ACL.

Hayes, a former four-star prospect converted high school tight end out of Traverse City, Michigan, looked fluid in his movements all night long once he settled in and showed the promise that Michigan did when they recruited him to it 2018 class. If nothing else, the future looks bright at both tackle spots for the Wolverines — and might just continue to factor into the 2019 season, as well.