The Michigan OL Hears Your Criticism and Uses it as Fuel

juwann bushell-beatty michigan offensive line

The Michigan OL Hears Your Criticism and Uses it as Fuel

Football

The Michigan OL Hears Your Criticism and Uses it as Fuel

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The wait-and-see approach is over for Michigan fans and the Wolverines offensive line. Even though there’s still a lot to wait and see about.

The maize and blue opened up the season at Notre Dame, and — after a year in which the offensive line was objectively horrid in pass protection — things didn’t look much different to the naked eye.

But, the difference is there, even if the fans can’t see it, per sé.

While the Wolverines did indeed struggle up front in Week One, the strength — overall — of Notre Dame’s team is it’s defensive line, especially its tandem on the edges. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it wasn’t likely that the two tackles who weren’t considered mainstays at the position going into the season were bound to suddenly play at All-American levels out of the gates. But, right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty and left tackle Jon Runyan Jr. held their own in Week Two facing Western Michigan.

Sure, it’s a step down as far as perceived level of competition is concerned, but it’s a start.

After the game on Saturday, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh felt like the uproar against the O-line was unwarranted — not just based off the Western game, but also the week before.

“I thought they played good last week,” Harbaugh said. “I thought it was an improvement, and I think they took another step this week as well. Just calls, getting on the right guys, not turning anybody loose on protection. Giving the quarterback a chance to step up in the pocket. Feel some space around him where everything isn’t collapsing. Blocked really well in the run game, hat on a hat. Just good sound, fundamental football. Was impressed.

“Was good to see a lot of guys get in the game.”

Well, that echo chamber of criticism has been at critical mass for quite some time, and has continued to reverberate in Ann Arbor and beyond.

Whether it’s truly warranted at this juncture is honestly an unknown. Through two weeks, one-sixth of the season, the jury is still out. But don’t tell the most ardent detractor that, because at the first quarterback pressure on Sept. 1, they saw all they needed to see. Whatever happened beyond that is circumstantial evidence and should be thrown to compost.

The not-so-fun part for the players that desperately want to improve and do their job up front is that they hear the cries of anger, the shrieking on social media.

Bushell-Beatty isn’t a particularly vocal presence on Twitter or Instagram, but he sees the criticism, over and over and over and over again, whether he wants to or not. It finds its way onto his timeline, into his ‘Discover’ tab on Instagram. No matter how good a game he did or didn’t have, he doesn’t look for the out-lash — it finds him.

And whether those criticisms ring true or not, he and his unit are just going to keep putting their head down and do what the coaches ask of them.

“I guess the public doesn’t really understand the inner workings of how things go on in here,” Bushell-Beatty said. “There were mistakes. When there’s mistakes, everyone always wants to point fingers and there are things that happen, but it’s football. I understand that, regardless of what happens, O-line is going to take blame for whatever. I’ve accepted that, whether it’s true or not. It’s not up to me. Just going forward, keep focusing on working hard and doing what we’ve got to do. That’s all there really is to it.”

Asked if he feels whether the fingers pointed in the O-line’s direction are warranted, Bushell-Beatty simply said:

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

But, the good news for players in that room is that they have two options, Bushell-Beatty explains. They can curl up and let the negativity affect them, or they can prove everyone wrong.

Given Saturday’s stunning tally on the ground — 308 yards rushing — that the starters only gave up one sack in Week Two, there is tangible progress that this unit has chosen to embrace the latter.

At this point, it might just be modest improvement on last year’s 2.76 allowed per game — Michigan was ranked 114th in sacks allowed a year ago — but it’s still evidence of improvement, Bushell-Beatty intimates.

“Yeah, I think people – to anyone that’s out here talking about you, you can either curl up and give up or you can prove everyone wrong,” Bushell-Beatty said. “I think this team has chosen to prove everyone wrong, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

Michigan’s line will assuredly have good games moving forward and they will have bad games as well. So far this season, we’ve seen both.

But the sky-is-falling mentality has managed to keep its distance from Schembechler Hall, and those who attempt to permeate the fortress with such negativity are met with resolve on the other end.

Bushell-Beatty knows that he and his cadre will continue to be subjects of the ire of a fanbase that craves a Big Ten Championship and beyond. But what he and his group have chosen to do with it is to press on, work together as a group, and move forward with the season at-large.

And really, with 10 regular season games left, that’s all they can do.

“I think that when people don’t understand things, they tend to point fingers,” Bushell-Beatty said. “It’s not for us to decide that they point that finger at us. So, all we can do in the future is to make it very obvious that we’re doing our jobs. If that means running for 400 yards a game or something outlandish, then that’s what we’ve gotta do. That’s what our goal is, regardless of whether it’s achievable or not. We’re just going to continue to fight every day.”

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