2017 Season Countdown: #39 Juwann Bushell-Beatty

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24Jul 2017
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2017 Season Countdown: #39 Juwann Bushell-Beatty

Juwann Bushell-Beatty (#76, with high school teammate Jabrill Peppers taking a snap; image via Michigan Daily)

Name: Juwann Bushell-Beatty
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 311 lbs.
High school: Paramus (NJ) Catholic
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #76
Last year: I ranked Bushell-Beatty #64 and said he would be a backup offensive tackle. He made one start and played in eight total games.
TTB Rating: 68

Bushell-Beatty went into the 2016 season with a prime opportunity to win a starting position, and he lost out in that competition to Grant Newsome to begin the year. Furthermore, he appeared to be third, behind freshman Ben Bredeson as well. Bredeson went on to establish himself at left guard, but Bushell-Beatty drew into the lineup after Newsome suffered a horrific knee injury against Wisconsin. (Newsome missed the rest of 2016 and will also miss 2017.) Bushell-Beatty struggled but earned his first start the next week against his home-state Rutgers Scarlet Knights . . . and struggled some more, at which point he was permanently replaced by Ben Braden.

This spring wasn’t any more positive for Bushell-Beatty. On the plus side, he has lost some weight from his earlier days in a Michigan uniform, but some minor injuries hampered him and he was passed by 6’4″ Jon Runyan, Jr., a guy almost everyone pegged as a center or guard. Some reinforcements are enrolled for the fall, though the Wolverines were unable to snag any grad transfer offensive linemen to ramp up the competition. Bushell-Beatty appears to be in a backup role for 2017, and while he has some value as a seasoned backup, he probably won’t be a starter again at Michigan unless injuries occur. Perhaps new offensive tackles coach Greg Frey can work some magic, but Frey generally goes for different body types than Bushell-Beatty’s. Ultimately, it looks like Bushell-Beatty will be a backup in 2017 and perhaps looking for a grad transfer opportunity elsewhere in 2018.

Prediction: Backup offensive tackle

24Jul 2017
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2017 Season Countdown: #40 Ty Isaac

Ty Isaac (image via Zimbio)

Name: Ty Isaac
Weight: 230 lbs.
High school: Chicago (IL) Joliet
Position: Running back
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #32
Last year: I ranked Isaac #34 and said he would be a backup running back with 60 carries for 300 yards and 3 TDs. He ran 74 times for 417 yards (5.6 yards/carry) and 5 TDs; he also caught 2 passes for 42 yards.
TTB Rating: N/A

Coming off a 2015 season where he averaged 6.8 yards/carry and broke off a 76-yard touchdown run, I thought Isaac should take a step forward on the depth chart. But that doesn’t mean I thought it would happen. The coaching staff did not appear to be as enamored with Isaac as I am, and while he did get more attempts, he was still not relied upon heavily in crunch time. Despite averaging 5.6 yards/carry, he had just 11 carries in the final six games – including the bowl game, in which he did not play for an undisclosed reason. Meanwhile, Karan Higdon had 29 carries for 66 yards over that same stretch, which is a little more than 2 yards/carry. Isaac’s yards per carry in that time? He ran for 85 yards, almost 8 yards/carry.

So. I know nothing. It doesn’t make sense unless former running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley and/or other guys on the coaching staff didn’t like Isaac, for whatever reason. I’m a numbers guy, and the numbers don’t support the playing time decisions.

It happened again in the spring game, to a lesser extent. Isaac (5 carries, 47 yards, 9.4 yards/carry, 1 TD) got fewer carries than Higdon (12 carries, 81 yards, 6.8 yards/carry, 2 TDs). I’ve learned over the years not to put too much stock in running back carries in the spring game (look out for Wyatt Shallman, everyone!), but I have resigned myself to the idea that Isaac is a backup. The coaches have their eyes on Chris Evans – who admittedly seems to be a more productive back – and Higdon, and they might even see Kareem Walker as a guy worth getting more carries. Wheatley has departed for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and in his place is former tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh, so a fresh start may be a good thing. I like Isaac and think he might be very underutilized, but there’s nothing I can do about it from my computer.

Prediction: Backup running back; 70 carries, 400 yards, 4 TDs

22Jul 2017
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2017 Season Countdown: #41 Ambry Thomas

Ambry Thomas (image via Twitter)

Name: Ambry Thomas
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 171 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) King
Position: Cornerback
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: #1
Last year: Thomas was a senior in high school. He made 37 catches for 902 yards.
TTB Rating: 90

Thomas was a highly sought after recruit within the State of Michigan, but for a long time, it seemed like he was heading out of the region. He made some noise early about going down to SEC country or the west coast, and they seemed like very real possibilities. I’ve had my eye on Thomas for a few years, because he’s lightning fast and played like the fastest player in the state since he was a sophomore. Michigan was able to reel him in a year after landing fellow King alum Lavert Hill, and he’s one of the top few prizes in the 2017 class.

Thomas enrolled in January and spent the spring looking like a lanky tenth grader out on the field. Even the listed weight of 171 lbs. might have been stretching it, so he needs some time in the weight room. Will he have a chance to spend enough time in the weight room before he needs to see the field? Doubtful. Michigan will probably need him to play slot corner throughout this season in nickel and dime situations, and he could be a key backup on the outside. He’s a liability in run support, but he has speed and playmaking ability on third down. The Wolverines lost three cornerbacks from the 2017 class, and nobody has put a stranglehold on any of those spots. Thomas also offers some upside as a punt or kick returner, and potentially as a wide receiver. I don’t think Thomas will be a full-time starter this year, but he may be able to stake his claim for 2018 on the outside over the likes of Hill, David Long, Keith Washington, and others.

Prediction: Nickel corner, special teamer

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