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Ryan Hayes may be the team’s best option at left tackle

As a backup lineman and temporary starter, Hayes has played both tackle positions.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Michigan at Indiana

There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it might do so with empty stadiums or a limited schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.

Ryan Hayes, RS SO

247 Composite Ranking: 4 stars (OT 23, Overall 335)
2019 Stats: 12 games played (LT, RT)

As has been well-documented, Michigan is going to feature a bunch of new faces along the offensive line in 2020. There are an ample number of candidates, but plenty of uncertainty as to who is ready to step up and fit in at any given position. One name that seems fairly likely to claim a role, however, is Ryan Hayes, a tackle who already has a couple of starts under his belt.

After sitting out all of his first season, Hayes was immediately thrust into action at the beginning of year two. First, Andrew Stueber went down before the season even started, and then starting left tackle Jon Runyan was injured as well, leaving Hayes as the next man up. He held his own and started the first two games of the year before being relegated to spot action throughout the remainder of the season. This experience was invaluable, though, and could set him up for a big 2020.

Can Hayes handle the demands of the left tackle position?

Hayes came in as a promising prospect with the build to play left tackle, but lacking the physicality needed to compete at a Big Ten-level. Some actually saw him as a tight end, which speaks to both his athleticism and need for bulking up, but he clearly has settled into offensive tackle and should hopefully be ready to go from a physical standpoint come this fall, which will be his third season in Ann Arbor.

Undoubtedly, no one expected — or hoped for — Hayes to be thrown into action to open up his redshirt freshman season, but that is how it goes in football sometimes. He was solid against Middle Tennessee but struggled a bit against Army, which makes sense in terms of opponent quality. It was not a surprise that he went back to the bench once Runyan returned, even though there was thought of him potentially pushing Jalen Mayfield out of right tackle at the time.

Of course, that is all in the past now. Mayfield had an outstanding season at right tackle and is probably the only locked-in starter at this point in time. While it is possible he would slide over to the left side of the line, the prevailing thought is to keep him in the position he commanded and keep some consistency as the line’s only returning starter. That means the left tackle spot is fully up for grabs, and Hayes has the best argument for it of anyone else on the roster.

There will be a new, inexperienced quarterback under center in 2020, and there is little leeway for struggles up front. Based on Hayes’s starting experience and in-game work throughout the rest of last year, he is about as good as the team could hope for as a new starter at left tackle. He has good feet and hips, and showed glimpses last season of the athleticism needed to play the position. He was recruited with big plans in mind, and they are about to culminate this fall.