ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Don’t think of Michigan as having a roster of football players, think of it as having deep stocks of talent capable of handling any job, scenario or situation. With that said, look no further than Devin Asiasi and Juwann Bushell-Beatty, among others, for concrete proof.
A player might be listed as an offensive lineman, but if he’s athletic enough, Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh will certainly plug him into another spot for a test run. To date, Bushell-Beatty — a 6-foot-6, 311-pound redshirt sophomore — has played four OL positions and lined up as a tight end (hand-in-the-dirt-type, three-point stance).
With great foot speed and movement, Bushell-Beatty could be one of Harbaugh’s most versatile and athletic big men. During Tuesday’s Big Ten coaches call, Harbaugh acknowledged Bushell-Beatty’s vast skill set.
He can block, handle motion and he plays with an edge — all of which has led to plenty of action for Bushell-Beatty during the Wolverines’ near-perfect run through the first nine games. In regard to the line, he’s played and practiced as everything but a center in 2016.
“I think he’s just a really hard worker,” said fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow. “He’s a big guy who can move his feet. He’ll get after you. I think he’s one of those guys who’s worked so hard, it’s hard to keep him off the field. We try to get him on the field any way we can.”
Michigan likes big targets at the end. Could Bushell-Beatty evolve into something more than just a blocking TE? Does he have the hands to catch passes?
“I mean, he’s got a lot of tape on those gloves… you know, maybe? I’m sure if I knew, I wouldn’t be saying it,” Glasgow said with a laugh. “Juwann is one of those people who has transformed his body over the years. He came in a little overweight, a big guy with a lot of underlying athleticism. Through just hard work, and work ethic, he’s really transformed.
“I’ve always been a big Juwann fan because of that.”
His first career reception was a touchdown, so that certainly set the tone for true freshman tight end Devin Asiasi’s first collegiate season. So far, he’s caught two passes for 18 yards (including a 15-yard TD).
However, his modest stat line doesn’t truly highlight his level of productivity/value: He’s lined up at tight end, and he’s even hopped into formations as a fullback.
Could there be day that Asiasi gets a carry? Harbaugh wouldn’t confirm or deny that idea, but he complimented the youngster’s ability to comprehend and adapt.
The upperclassmen see the former 4-star recruit working every day. He’s been nothing short of impressive.
“From Day 1, Asiasi’s been a player. You know, he moves people. I think he’s 6-3, 275, solid Tongan-Samoan muscle — just moooving people,” Glasgow said. “I mean, you see him in camp (and think) ‘This dude’s a freshman?’ He’s all tatted up, scary looking (laughter). You wouldn’t guess he was a freshman if you didn’t know.”
Michigan has options with Asiasi and Bushell-Beatty, who each have clearly outperformed their listed job duties.
There could be a day when Asiasi turns into something like Khalid Hill, a one-time tight end who’s enjoyed mountains of success in 2016 — he leads Michigan with nine rushing TDs and has evolved into one of the most efficient goal-line weapons in college football.
There could come a time when Bushell-Beatty gets a carry or sees more responsibility at tight end.
Such operation has been common practice for the best players. Each guy at Michigan was “the guy” at their high school. For many, multi-role play was the norm. However, that’s not always the case in college.
Regardless of Asiasi and Bushell-Beatty’s future roles, it’s clear that Michigan has more than “football players” on its roster; it has well-coached athletes capable of handling multiple roles at the collegiate level.