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Jalen Mayfield’s continued improvement is crucial for Michigan’s offensive line

Mayfield was named to the Outland Trophy watch list on Tuesday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 Michigan State at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With Michigan losing veteran offensive linemen Ben Bredeson, Cesar Ruiz, Jon Runyan Jr., and Michael Onwenu to the NFL, there’s a leadership void that needs filling.

Right tackle Jalen Mayfield is in prime position to not only be a major leader on offense, but to solidify his high-ranking NFL Draft status.

A reflection of the 6-foot-5 tackle’s ascending stock transpired on Tuesday when Mayfield was named to the Outland Trophy watch list, which goes to the nation’s best interior offensive lineman.

In May, NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Mayfield No. 14 overall in his early 2021 NFL draft rankings, and Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline called Mayfield Michigan’s “next big time prospect” and a player that’s “a terrific pass protector who is also effective as a run blocker and in motion.”

“I really liked what I saw from him in the biggest games, including when he was lined up against No. 2 overall pick Chase Young in the Wolverines’ loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale,” Kiper said. “Mayfield has some upside, and I’ll be watching closely this season.”

Mayfield impressed during his first year of playing time, and there’s no reason to think his upward trajectory won’t continue after just 13 career starts.

“Expectations are really high,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said earlier this month. “He looks great. Since Jalen Mayfield has been here, every time I watch the film of practice, I like watching No. 73. That is a thing. I like the way he plays. I like watching him play football. I think, so far, the offseason indicates he’s going to be even better. Super excited for him and his opportunity this year.”

For the full Outland Trophy watch list, click here.