There are several clear indicators that Michigan's 2020 football season will be like no season in the past. From daily COVID tests to beginning the year against a Big Ten rival, there will be many "firsts" this year.
But according to starting right tackle Jalen Mayfield, one of the most clear signs of a new U-M squad is the big play capability of the Wolverines offense.
"It's a lot different from the years I've been here," Mayfield told Jon Jansen on Inside the Trenches podcast. "We have a lot of youth, but we have a lot of playmakers and a lot of explosive playmakers in our offensive room. To see everyday just the amount of growth that our young guys, especially at quarterback, that we've made just through this little camp period that we've had is remarkable."
From an outside perspective, the biggest difference from Michigan's 2019 offense to the 2020 iteration is the new starting quarterback in Joe Milton, a player who's received adoration for his arm strength ad nauseum this offseason. However, Mayfield thinks the hype might be warranted.
"We've got Joe, he's doing things I haven't seen anybody really ever do," Mayfield said. "Some of the reads, some of the throws he makes are just ridiculous and they're eye-opening. We just have such a talented group of guys. our receivers, not everybody got a bunch of playing time because we had such great receivers last year, but there were some guys who asserted themselves and stepped up this year in the offseason and really made a conscious effort to be the best they could be knowing that their number is going to be called this year."
As Mayfield mentioned, Milton will be throwing to a group of younger pass catchers this year, but those players offer an element that wasn't prominent in the past-- speed.
Giles Jackson is a noted burner. Mike Sainristil is both quick and fast. Roman Wilson has been called the fastest player on the team, and then both A.J. Henning and Ronnie Bell can hold their own in foot races to boot.
Surely that group will learn a lot this season, and at times that is exactly how Mayfield felt last season with four accomplished starters next to him on the offensive line. As the year went on, Mayfield began to understand the offense better and really hit his stride during the Penn State and Notre Dame games. In doing so, Mayfield really appreciated how the veteran OL on the team took him under their wing, and he's looking to do the same with the Wolverines' blockers this year.
"I'm really excited to see on Saturday the amount of work that each guy has put in and all the time they've waited for this exact moment," Mayfield said. "I know Chuck [Filiaga] is a starter and [Andrew] Stueber waited a long time for this. Ryan [Hayes], he got to play last year, but I know he's super amped for this opportunity. I know all five of us were biting at the bit over here to get back and finally play as a unit, so I cannot wait for Saturday. It's going to be real exciting."
When Saturday comes, Mayfield will have a fairly unique perspective since he initially opted out of the 2020 season before rejoining the team. Mayfield said he heard from head coach Jim Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Josh Gattis and Ed Warinner "every day" to let him know that he was welcome back before he returned to squad.
Now, Mayfield and his teammates are focused on the job at hand while also keeping a sideways eye pointed towards a bitter foe at the end of the 2020 schedule.
"It's definitely a different experience than what anybody else has had, but our end goal is to be 1-0 this week and to prepare for Ohio State," Mayfield said. "Each week, we're going to prepare for that team because in the back of our mind, we know we have one team on our head, and we always want to prepare for them. I know we are super excited to get Minnesota on the clock, and we are still preparing for that last game every year, just like we always have."
In a strange year, Michigan defeating Ohio State might end up as the strangest part, but it's a strange occurrence that Mayfield and his teammates are hoping to make a reality this season.
How will the Minnesota game turn out? Does Michigan have a shot to take down OSU if it builds momentum early on? Let us know!