Notebook: Bushell-Beatty fights back against criticism, Thomas on offense and more

Tuesday, September 11, 2018 - 9:52pm

Fifth-year senior tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty fought against criticism after Michigan's loss to Notre Dame.

Fifth-year senior tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty fought against criticism after Michigan's loss to Notre Dame. Buy this photo
Alexis Rankin/Daily

Fifth-year senior tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty doesn’t seek it out, but it’s impossible to ignore. He scrolls through social media and sees and hears the harsh criticism his unit faces. It reached a fever pitch after the 24-17 loss to Notre Dame on Sept. 1, and has since quieted a tad, after the Wolverines rushed for over 300 yards against Western Michigan this past weekend.

Bushell-Beatty says that’s how it goes — lose one week and fans want your head, win the next and the uproar fades. He thinks it stems from the public’s inability to understand the fundamentals of offensive line play. He, like Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, thinks the criticism of the offensive line has been misguided.

“The public doesn’t really understand the inner-workings of how things go on in here,” Bushell-Beatty said Tuesday afternoon. “I think there were mistakes, and when there’s mistakes — and there’s always, everyone wants to point fingers and there are things that happened. It’s football. I understand, regardless of what happens, O-Line is going to take blame for whatever. I’ve accepted that. Whether it’s true or not, is not up to me.

“Some of it is (unwarranted), but that’s life. People are going to criticize you for everything you do. The sooner you learn to accept that the better.”

He added that it’s a galvanizing force for a group that isn’t willing to apologize for weaknesses it feels doesn’t exist. Redshirt sophomore center Stephen Spinellis affirmed this sentiment Monday afternoon.

When Bushell-Beatty talks, he sounds like a calloused veteran who’s been on the receiving end of insults his entire career. He speaks candidly, but maturely, about how he feels, not in a combative way, but in a stern assertion of how he feels.

He hasn’t always been able to handle criticism as assuredly.

“It’s not something that’s easy to have people pointing fingers at you,” he said. “It’s something that takes time. I understand my role on this team and as a football player, there are things that happen, things are going to go wrong, people are going to say, ‘You suck.’ But, I mean, at the end of the day, they can’t do what they do, that’s why they watch us on TV.”

Ambry Thomas getting chance on offense

Whether in seven-year-old Pee Wee football or on the road at Notre Dame, the recipe for sophomore Ambry Thomas has long been the same: Just run.

“I was literally seven years old,” Thomas said. “Every time I touched it, I just ran and scored. They just tell me ‘Run!’ That’s all I did. I just ran. Like Forest Gump, run.”

When you have the speed Thomas does, that works out more often than it doesn’t. When Thomas watches film, his speed even stands out to him.

“I didn’t know I was that fast,” Thomas said. “I knew I was fast, but that fast, no.”

The Monday after the loss to Notre Dame, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh informed the team Thomas wouldn’t just be using his speed at cornerback and on special teams; he’d work in with the offense as well. It’s a chance Thomas had awaited with baited breath.

He got one carry on Saturday against Western Michigan, gaining five yards. He estimates he’s been working on offense for a play or two in each practice — hardly a challenging endeavor for the sophomore.

But an enticing opportunity for him and for an offense in dire need of explosive plays, nonetheless.

Last season, Michigan ranked 58th in IsoPPP, a statistic that meaures explosive offensive plays. Thomas is a walking explosive play. He was in Pee Wee. He was in high school. He can be in college, too.

“High school, it was like the same thing. That’s when I really got at corner,” Thomas said. “They saw what I could do at corner, they liked my speed there. They said ‘Aw, yeah, this guy could possible be a two-way player at the next level.’

“I just like knowing that you have the opportunity to change the game, if you get the ball in your hands. That’s real exciting to me.”

McCurry’s first touchdown

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jake McCurry didn’t keep the ball. It didn’t occur to him that his first touchdown in the Big House — and the first catch of his career — might carry some sentimentality down the road.

“That didn’t go through my head at all,” McCurry said Tuesday afternoon.

With just under nine minutes left in Saturday’s blowout over Western Michigan, McCurry lined up in the slot to redshirt freshman quarterback Dylan McCaffery’s right. McCaffery took the snap, faked a handoff and rolled to McCurry’s side.

“I’m not really sure what I am in the progression. I was one of the main routes,” McCurry said. “I just remember looking at the leverage the DB had — it was a quick play. We got up right there and ran it. It was a quick play, and I remember I had to get outside and try to stack him a little bit. That’s really all I thought when I was running the route.”

McCaffery delivered the strike to McCurry on the sideline, who then juked a lunging defender and dove into the endzone. 

It was McCaffery’s first passing touchdown of his career, to boot.

“Initially, I just wanted to see Dylan, because I’m pretty close with Dylan — it was a special moment that he threw me the ball. I was just excited, that’s the only way to describe it.”

McCurry heard from all walks of life — his phone blowing up with tweets, texts, all forms of congratulatory messages. 

“It was definitely a special moment,” McCurry said. “It was specifically special with Dylan and other guys that were on the field that are my best friends, like Joel Hornigford, Oliver Martin, I think Andrew Steuber might have been out there, Tru (Wilson). Those are the guys I’ve really hung out with a lot, and are really close to.”