ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan redshirt sophomore Juwann Bushell-Beatty didn’t start playing football until he enrolled in high school at Paramus Catholic in New Jersey.
He wasn’t even a fan of the game, really. Instead of watching games, he watched cartoons.
But it’s not like he couldn’t play. His athleticism was never in question. He played baseball and basketball. He held his own, too. He adapted to his surroundings and grew to be comfortable on the court and diamond.
Because of personal weight concerns — he was a bit husky, by 20 pounds, back in the day — and the fact that he was much, much bigger than his peers, Bushell-Beatty had to wait a few years before strapping on a helmet and pads.
Today, he’s the Wolverines’ starting left tackle, tasked with helping anchor the O-line and protecting redshirt sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight.
Times have quickly changed for Bushell-Beatty, who has become used to learning on the fly.
Right now, he just wants to do his best job in place of Newsome, who had won the No. 1 spot over true freshman Ben Bredeson during camp. In a sense, Bushell-Beatty will be playing for his fallen teammate.
“What happened with Grant was really kind of sad,” Bushell-Beatty said during an availability Tuesday night at Schembechler Hall. “I’m hoping the best for him and his recovery and everything…”
Concern? Jitters? Not really those things for Bushell-Beatty. Put it this way: He’s eager to start, and perform well, for the No. 4-ranked Wolverines (5-0, 2-0) versus his home-state Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-3, 0-2) this Saturday in New Jersey.
“I feel like there is definitely more of a sense of urgency,” said Bushell-Beatty, who’s had five appearances on the O-line since landing in 2014 at Michigan. “I’m just trying to stay calm and stress-free, I guess you could say. I’m trying to improve every day. Even after practice, I’m still working on things… studying… making sure, on every occasion, that I’m ready.”
This past Saturday versus Wisconsin, Bushell-Beatty responded to a standing challenge issued by offensive coordinator/O-line coach Tim Drevno.
While in relief of Newsome, he threw aggressive blocks and cleared the way on third-and-three for redshirt junior running back Ty Isaac, who moved the chains with a five-yard gain in the third quarter. That play happened because Bushell-Beatty has above-average quickness and agility.
It was one of just three successful third-down conversions on 15 attempts against the then-No. 8-ranked Badgers.
“I think my initial quickness as an offensive linemen is one of my stand-outs… my feet,” he said. “But I also have to work on my pad-level and things like that — which would help improve my strong suits.”
Back in 2015, Drevno, formerly of USC, laid out clear rules and expectations. Because of his teachings, the Wolverines have strengthened the depth and skill level of their offensive line.
“I feel like the attitude in the last few years has changed,” Bushell-Beatty said. ‘We know what we want, and we’re going to take it. As of a few years ago — it was just different. I didn’t feel as if we bonded well, I guess you could say. I think things have changed a lot.”
Growth happens when a coach lays out a healthy, competitive ultimatum.
“He demanded a certain attitude out of us,” Bushell-Beatty. “Him having that demand… kind of like either ‘you could sink or swim.’ So a lot of guys decided to swim, and we had to change things up — and I think it was all for the better.”