Often times when the going gets tough, fans call for leaders to emerge on the field to pull a team through adversity. If the Michigan Wolverines are any indication, they are set to have the most leadership via captains than they ever have had during the 2020 season.
Speaking on the Inside Michigan Football radio show on Monday evening, head coach Jim Harbaugh revealed to Jon Jansen that there are seven players — all “worthy guys” — that will be captains for the Wolverines this upcoming season.
“Carlo Kemp was a captain last year,” Harbaugh said. “Kwity Paye has been such a great leader. Aidan Hutchinson is stalwart. Josh Ross, same kind...great player, great guy, great teammate, great leader. And Ben Mason and Nick Eubanks and Andrew Vastardis. All those guys just very deserving, top-shelf players and leaders.”
Earlier in the day, Harbaugh was asked during his weekly press conference if the coronavirus pandemic and all of the alterations and protocols in place has brought his team closer together.
“That’s probably a true statement,” Harbaugh said. “Just been that kind of group. Lot of really good leaders. Lot of guys that are really invested and a lot of guys that really like each other. Lot of guys that really like football. Every step of the way through uncertain times, I think they have relied on each other more. Even the concept of allowing the team to make you a better player, too. Help you be a better player. Taking some of the best virtues from other players on the team and adopting the best from the best. That’s both having great leaders and having guys that really want to be as good as they can be and are looking at other players and doing it well and adopting some of their best qualities.”
There have been seasons where Michigan has named as many as four captains, which last occurred in 2018. Last season, Michigan named three captains and two alternate captains. The leadership structure in place as it pertains to the captains is obviously much wider than it ever has been.
Kemp is the lone returning captain from last season where he served alongside Ben Bredeson and Khaleke Hudson. Shea Patterson and Josh Metellus were the team’s alternate captains.
None of that names are all that surprising except center Andrew Vastardis, who seemingly came out of nowhere to not only lock down the starting center job, but also emerge as a leader in the offensive line room. Kemp spoke about Vastardis during his meeting with the media on Monday, as well.
“The biggest thing about Andrew is that he’s one of the hardest workers on and off the field. Especially on the field. Whatever happens during a play, he’s going to make sure he finishes to the best of his ability,” Kemp said. “Through the whistle to the whistle. That’s not an understatement. It’s every play, consistently, no matter what.”
“We like to think of Andrew like a Mack truck. He drives his Mack truck to work every single day and kind of pours his concrete. That’s kind of the guy that Andrew is. Being in that center position, you’ve gotta lead the rest of those o-lineman and he’s done a tremendous job of getting those guys fired up every single day to go out there and practice and see the work and the things we want to accomplish this season.”
There are a lot of voices in the locker room and leaders that do not hold a captain designation. Michigan is hoping that enhanced team chemistry pays off on the field as soon as Saturday’s opener against Minnesota.