After 'big growing year,' Andrew Stueber adjusts to move inside on Michigan's O-line
Andrew Stueber began his Michigan football career as an offensive tackle, where he has made two starts. Now, he’s at right guard.
Frankly, the coaches can put him anywhere. It doesn’t matter where he plays. He just wants to play.
Stueber suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during preseason camp last year and missed the entire season. He stayed in the game by watching film with his offensive line teammates and helping coach the younger linemen, but it might be hard to find a Michigan player more excited to begin padded practices, which started Thursday.
The Wolverines are preparing for their season opener at Minnesota on Oct. 24 to kick off a nine-game schedule that includes a seeded crossover game at the end.
“It was pretty tough for me mentally, but it was good because it allowed me to take a step back and look at the whole unit, the whole team from a different perspective,” Stueber told reporters Thursday. “I helped a lot of younger guys get where they were. I had a lot of knowledge of the game already. I was going into my third year, so I kind of knew a lot about the game and how to grow the younger guys.
“I helped with some cut-ups and film. It was a big growing year for me personally and mentally. As far as getting back, I was in the training room almost every day, strengthening my leg, keeping my body up to speed. It was a lot of work. I’m really proud of where I’ve come. Can’t wait for (padded practices).”
Offensive line coach Ed Warinner is tasked with replacing four starters up front. It was nearly five but right tackle Jalen Mayfield, who had opted out when the Big Ten initially announced on Aug. 11 the season was postponed, is back and resuming his spot. Stueber and Mayfield were neck-and-neck competing to start at right tackle when Stueber was hurt. With Mayfield at right tackle and Ryan Hayes penciled in at left tackle, Stueber has been moved to right guard.
Warinner has referred to Stueber as a “big human” — the Connecticut native is 6-foot-7 and 339 pounds — and said the depth at tackle forced the move inside.
“I played tackle most of my career here, but I did play a little left guard going into my sophomore year when Ben Bredeson, his knee swelled up, so I moved to guard,” Stueber said. “It is a little different for me playing guard, but I really don’t have a preference. I’m all about whatever helps the unit, what helps the team.
“It has helped me playing tackle from a guard’s perspective — I know what I liked playing tackle, so I can help tailor my play to whatever the tackle needs. It’s just helping get the technique down, helping the center, getting the center and guard calls right. I’m experienced there and in the long run it’s only going to help me with the versatility playing tackle and guard. I’m happy with it right now.”
In August before the 2019 season, Stueber had been playing right tackle but switched to the left side in a practice when starter Jon Runyan tweaked his knee. During a live period, a defensive tackle was pushed into the back of Stueber’s knees and he went down.
“It was definitely difficult to comprehend,” Stueber said of how he dealt with the injury. “I worked so hard to get to that point. I was starting at the end of my sophomore year, so it was a pivotal year for me, but I just took it in stride, took it as this was going to be kind of a step back, I was taking a year off from football. Kind of a mental year for me building to this point, and I’m stronger than ever.”
Despite the postponement of the season in August, Michigan players continued to go through voluntary practices to stay sharp. There was no hitting, but the coaches used the time to focus on fundamentals and precision.
“Coach Warinner has been focusing on our first couple steps, our eyes, our hand placement and the overall mentality of the game,” Stueber said. “That’s the biggest thing for the younger guys. The hardest thing with young guys is the mental aspect of the game, knowing your assignment, knowing how to block, knowing your aiming point. Not having pads, that was the biggest focus. That has leveled the plane a lot for the younger guys.”
Stueber said he and the linemen were shocked when Mayfield decided to opt out and begin training for the NFL Draft. They were staying in touch, but Stueber never pressured him about the move. He had enjoyed watching Mayfield improve last year and they’d often watch film together, with Stueber offering tips and making points about what he had observed.
“When he finally made the decision to come back, it all clicked,” Stueber said. “He’s coming back, he’s working hard. It’s like he’s never skipped a beat. It helps the overall O-line chemistry. We’re all jelling well again. It feels really good.
“I just wanted what was best for him. It was great to see him make the decision to come back. I can’t wait to play next to him.”
Building a successful offensive line is about developing chemistry. Stueber said he and Mayfield already have that on the right side of the line.
“I’ve always played right tackle, so I know what he’s looking for in a guard on a double block,” Stueber said. “It gets to the point where we run a play, we just have to say the number of guy. We don’t have to say what block we’re doing or the technique we’re doing. We’re pretty much on the same page already. So by watching film and getting on same page, it’s helped a lot with our chemistry as an O-line as a whole. Playing next to him, he’s now a veteran player, so he knows what he’s looking for, too. Both of us are pretty experienced players, so it’s pretty easy to play next to him now.”