ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In the wake of Grant Newsome’s injury, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh could decide to do a bit of juggling with the Wolverines’ offensive line.
Newsome, the starting left tackle, suffered a severe blow to the left knee during the second quarter of No. 4-ranked Michigan’s 14-7 win over Wisconsin. He will likely miss the rest of the season, reported Harbaugh — who was visibly upset while essentially eulogizing Newsome’s 2016.
A great kid. Hard worker. An ending like this hurts.
Harbaugh even asked reporters to keep Newsome in their prayers.
During camp, the sophomore had won the starting role over true freshman Ben Bredeson. But rather than roll with Bredeson in relief on Saturday, Harbaugh chose to insert redshirt sophomore Juwann Bushell-Beatty at the blindside.
For the most part, things worked out with Bushell-Beatty against the Badgers. Considering that it was only his fifth appearance on the line, the 6-foot-6, 311-pounder held his own against one of the best defenses in the nation.
With that said, Bushell-Beatty hasn’t locked down the position. There could be more competition involved.
On Monday, Harbaugh said he could move Mason Cole — a junior center — back to left tackle, where Cole had started every game as a true freshman and sophomore. Or, Harbaugh said he could move Ben Braden, a fifth-year senior, one step to the left and find a new left guard — presumably Bredeson or Bushell-Beatty.
Patrick Kugler was also mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Cole at center, should Cole transition back to left tackle. At 6-foot-5 and 303 pounds, Kugler certainly has the size to fill the potential void left by Cole. But here’s the downside: Kugler has only appeared in four games during his career at Michigan.
Leaving Cole at center and tinkering with the left tackle spot may be the best remedy. Maybe plug in Braden and have Bredeson and Bushell-Beatty battle for left guard — or even opt for true freshman Michael Onwenu, who’s already seen reps on both sides of the ball.
Anything but moving Cole to left tackle. He’s proving to be as steady as Graham Glasgow, who’s now with the Detroit Lions. Can’t mess with that fit.
With that said, it’d be easy for a first-year starting quarterback — with all of five full games on his resume — to get confused, maybe even a little rattled. So far, so good for the Wolverines. Why shuffle the deck?
That’s not the case with Speight, though. He’ll be confident in whomever stands in the trenches. After all, they’re all good players who have received adequate coaching while in Ann Arbor.
They’ll be prepared, regardless of the swaps, said the 6-foot-6, 234-pound redshirt sophomore who’s completed 63 percent of his attempts this season (92 for 146) for 10 touchdowns.
“All throughout spring and all throughout camp, (offensive coordinator Tim) Drevno did a great job of making sure everyone got their reps,” said Speight, who’ll face a Rutgers defense that averages 2.2 sacks per sack (No. 11 in Big Ten). “There’s going to be young guys who have to step up. Doesn’t worry me at all, though.
“Because across the board, those guys are all smart guys and they know what to do to get the job done. They’ll do that this week.”