ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Grant Newsome’s knee injury didn’t look good. Injuries never do, though. As soon as the sophomore left tackle tumbled to the ground, the Wolverines’ sideline bunched together — it was a collective gasp, and players were visibly tense.
Like they had done the previous Saturday with Jeremy Clark, the Wolverines then walked onto the field in order to comfort their fallen teammate.
At that point, things appeared to be serious.
However, unlike Clark, who was lost for the season due to a torn ACL suffered against Penn State, Newsome walked off the field, leaving the cart behind as No. 4-ranked Michigan put the finishing touches on its 14-7 win over No. 8-ranked Wisconsin in Ann Arbor.
How long will he be out of the lineup? That’s yet to be determined. But he’ll need knee surgery, and in most cases, knee surgery tends to eat away weeks upon weeks. The odds of a regular-season return seem rather slim, actually.
UPDATE: Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday that Grant Newsome would miss the rest of the season. Harbaugh hopes it wasn’t a career-threatening injury. He doesn’t know the extent of the damage at the moment, but the team visited Newsome in the hospital on Sunday.
Coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t say much after the game. His facial expression and the tone of a few words he said were enough. For the past two weeks, the Wolverines have lost key members. Starting cornerback. Starting left tackle. Those are important positions that require better-than-average depth.
During camp, Newsome — a 6-foot-7, 318-pounder — battled true freshman Ben Bredeson for starting reps. In Week 1, Bredeson started at left guard in place of injured fifth-year senior Ben Braden, who has since assumed that position.
Bredeson could be an option — that’s if things don’t work out with Juwann Bushell-Beatty, a 6-foot-6, 311-pound redshirt sophomore who’s played just five times on the line and four times on special teams during his career — and four of those line appearances were in 2015.
After relieving Newsome, Bushell-Beatty needed time to gain bearings, evidenced by his holding penalty while Shane Morris was inserted as a running quarterback. However, he engaged well during a third-and-three situation, allowing redshirt junior running back Ty Isaac to hit the edge for a first down.
Come to think of it, he was also sturdy during Speight’s game-winning 46-yard touchdown throw to Amara Darboh — that link required a few seconds to materialize, and Bushell-Beatty helped provide that cushion.
Either way, Michigan never had an experienced option at the position, so this season was bound to be a learning experience for whomever took over for Mason Cole, a junior who started two years at left tackle before moving to center.
This past week, Bredeson discussed his desire to be a “versatile” lineman. A left tackle in high school, Bredeson wants to learn all five positions during his time at Michigan. Right now, the 6-foot-5, 310-pound freshman appears to be locked into the No. 2 spot behind Braden at left guard. Should another injury occur up front, he’d be a likely candidate to fill that gap.
With that said, and should Bushell-Beatty fail to really impress, Michigan could have another battle for the starting job at left tackle.
Of course, it’ll be important to increase the level of pass-protection across the board while Bushell-Beatty gets used to his apparent new role.
What does that mean?
No more missed blocks in the backfield, that’s what.
On Saturday, senior De’Veon Smith — the Wolverines’ best pass-pro running back — missed at least two assignments. Such was the case for redshirt junior fullback Henry Poggi. Wisconsin found ways to get at Speight, probably more often than Michigan would have liked.
The Wolverines’ defense should continue to serve as a strength — it’s shown zero signs of slowing its pace.
With that said, the offense has shown incredible promise — averaging 49 points per game prior to Saturday’s low-scoring wrestling match with the Badgers — and most certainly stands to be the difference between merely contending for a Big Ten crown or legitimately fighting for a national championship.