They’ve got a catchy nickname. Just not a lot of catches. While that may not seem like much of a problem to most folks, for the Wolverines’ “Killer B’s” – receivers Calvin Bell, Ron Bellamy and Tyrece Butler – that’s a stigma they’ve been fighting their entire careers.

Paul Wong
Joe Smith

They had so much promise. So much hype. But for one reason or another, so few results.

The three upperclassmen have combined for just 52 catches in their seven total years of experience coming into this season.

Just like a bee without a stinger, an intimidating reputation can only scare people for so long before they realize the most potent thing it can do is buzz around your ear.

But this year, the Wolverines may need their “Killer B’s” the most – especially if they’re serious about smelling the roses in Pasadena.

When they’re catching balls, it means star sophomore Braylon Edwards isn’t doing it all by himself. And if they’re legitimate threats, it means teams won’t be as likely to double-team Edwards, giving him a chance to make plays.

And more importantly, it will mean John Navarre is spreading the ball around and checking off his primary options. That’s essential to the “new offense,” according to Bellamy, and that’s when it works the best.

You can expect Edwards and tight end Bennie Joppru to be consistent every game. But as shown so far this season, when Butler, Bellamy or Bell show up, the Wolverines have a significantly better shot to win. It’s as simple as that.

Butler: He was Michigan’s savior in the Wolverines’ dramatic, last-second win over Washington on Aug. 31. The junior caught six passes for 85 yards, most of which came on critical third down plays. And his heads-up fumble recovery after sophomore Edwards dropped the ball on the final drive made the game-winning field goal by Phil Brabbs possible.

Edwards may have been flashy and gotten the attention. But Butler won the game.

Bell: While the junior has the most career catches of the three “B’s” with 27, Bell is more known for running Michigan’s token reverse than being on the receiving end of long bombs. But Bell has benefited the most from Butler’s case of the dropsies against Notre Dame and Utah. As a result he saw a majority of the snaps in Champaign.

The slot specialist caught five balls against Illinois and showed his play-making ability by accumulating most of his yards after catching crossing routes.

Bellamy: This was supposed to be his turn in the receiving “cycle.” And after three years of fans asking, “What the heck happened to Ron Bellamy?” the senior finally made some big plays against Illinois last Saturday. His touchdown on a fade route – his first score since last year’s Penn State game – not only gave him confidence, it may have also given Navarre some needed assurance that Bellamy’s a legitimate target.

“As a receiver, you never know when your number will be called,” Bellamy said. “On Saturday, my number was called pretty often and I made plays.”

If the Wolverines have aspirations for Pasadena instead of central Florida, the “Killer B’s” have to prove their mettle – and show they still have some sting left in them.

Joe Smith can be reached at josephms@umich.edu.

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