Juwann Bushell-Beatty had a particular confidence about him when he first got to Ann Arbor. The now-fifth-year-senior says he was like most freshman on the Michigan football team in that way — upbeat that high school success would carry over to the next level.
“A lot of people coming from high school those first few years, you have that certain ego about you,” Bushell-Beatty said Tuesday. “College football can be really humbling. You may not always get those opportunities. There are guys that are better than you, there are guys who will get more opportunities. That may happen.”
That was Bushell-Beatty’s reality.
He did not start his first game until 2017 — his fourth season with the Wolverines — and was in and out of the lineup throughout the year. The offensive line struggled and proved to be the Achilles’ heel of Michigan’s lackluster offense.
“It takes a while to adjust, especially when you’re young,” Bushell-Beatty said. “Once you accommodate to that — you get stronger, you get in playbook, you do all these things and all these things come together — you get your confidence. Confidence is one of the most important things.”
During fall camp, however, Bushell-Beatty said that he felt old confidence wane. It must not have helped when, to open the this season, he and redshirt junior Jon Runyan Jr. — Michigan’s starting tackles — were outmatched consistently against Notre Dame’s talent-laden front seven.
“We knew we should be playing better ball,” Bushell-Beatty said. “We knew we had to put better stuff on tape.”
That is exactly what Bushell-Beatty and the Wolverines have done. Michigan is rushing for an average of 237 yards per game and have allowed just 11 sacks since Sept. 1.
Bushell-Beatty’s personal improvement, meanwhile, has caught the eye of the coaching staff. In his postgame press conference Saturday, Harbaugh noted that athletic director and former offensive lineman Warde Manuel thought Bushell-Beatty had his best game of his career against Penn State — two weeks after Bushell-Beatty had a similarly strong performance in East Lansing.
“The last few weeks, I’ve been on an upward trend,” Bushell-Beatty said. “… Being older, I don’t really have the classes like the younger guys do, so I’m just putting more time into film, getting into the playbook, paying attention to the opponent, working on techniques — those are all things you have to do.”
Rashan Gary thinks Bushell-Beatty’s largest leap has come in pass protection. In previous battles, the junior defensive end used to take advantage of Bushell-Beatty’s impatience at the line of scrimmage.
But, recently, Gary has noticed a different approach from Bushell-Beatty.
“Sometimes, he’ll be aggressive and shoot his hands, and I’ll get them down,” Gary said. “But it’s like, ‘Alright, now what are you going to do, Rashan?’ Now, I got to make the move, and he’ll counter it. So it’s a great battle, and he’s getting better.”
Added Bushell-Beatty: “I think that’s probably one of the biggest things for me, just focusing on being patient. I pride myself on having quick feet and being about to adjust quickly. Sometimes, it’s not all about that. You got to be more patient in pass (protect) and be more precise and specific with your movements.”
Patience has indeed been pivotal for Bushell-Beatty — both in his current technique and career trajectory overall. Five years removed from high school, the Wolverines’ starting right tackle is finally feeling confident — and playing the way he once expected to.
“Some people need more reps, just need more time,” Bushell-Beatty said. “Since being an offensive lineman is one of the most difficult positions on the field, it’s not something that comes to you right away. Once you really get it down pat and spend a lot of time on it, it becomes a lot more natural.”