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Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner said Year 2 is about climbing "the mountain." Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News

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Ann Arbor — The competition at right tackle between Andrew Stueber and Jalen Mayfield remained so tight — from spring practice through last week in camp — that offensive line coach Ed Warinner said both would have played in the opener.

But Stueber, who started the final two games last season, suffered a leg injury last week and it is unclear how long he will be sidelined.

“I don’t have a timeline,” Warinner said Monday when asked when Stueber might return. “I’m not the medical staff. They’re just working with him to see what and how quickly they can get him to respond. We’ll see. Time will tell.”

Now the starting job is Mayfield’s, with Ryan Hayes is backing him up, as well as Jon Runyan at left tackle.

How close was the competition before Stueber’s injury? Warinner maintained only that it was paper thin.

“I know it sounds like coachspeak, but it was pretty close,” Warinner said. “We rotated them in spring. Of the 15 practices, Seven of them, one was a starter, seven, the other was a starter. In the spring game, we rotated them. Dead even in the spring game, I think within one play. And then in training camp, we were doing the same thing.

“And we just kept watching and watching to see if one guy would pull away. One guy would sneak up and then the other guy would catch him. They were fighting it out. It was pretty darn close. I think however it would have fallen, they both would have played quite a bit. We would have just probably played 60-40 in the game, which is a good thing.”

Joel Honigford was playing right guard but has been moved to tackle, an experiment Warinner tried last year, but Honigford wasn’t quite ready. Andrew Vastardis is at right guard, so Warinner said he felt good about moving Honigford. Stephen Spanellis is backing up at center, and Chuck Filiaga at left guard.

“He’s only been there a couple days but he’s looked real comfortable,” Warinner said of Honigford. “That may be a better position for him. A year ago when I first got here, I tried him out there and he struggled in the pass protection. Now, over a year of working that and some of his fundamentals we were able to develop with him, he’s really looked good out there in terms of that.

“That was the piece that kept him from playing tackle a year ago. Now I feel real comfortable with him in pass protection, and he knows what’s going on. I think that’s going to be a good move for him.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis

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