Michigan right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty on the offensive line's focus moving forward. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — If you’ve talked to a Michigan offensive lineman in the last few years, it is abundantly clear they know that pretty much everyone believes they’ve been the weak link on the team.
After the season-opening loss at Notre Dame, the finger-pointing began again. But after the line helped pave the way for a 308-yard rushing performance in a rout of Western Michigan last Saturday, the linemen's confidence has been boosted.
Michigan (1-1) will host SMU Saturday at Michigan Stadium. SMU (0-2) has given up 88 points through two games and is ranked 108th nationally in total defense (461 yards).
Michigan has gone with same starting offensive line the last two weeks with Jon Runyan Jr. at left tackle, Ben Bredeson at left guard, Cesar Ruiz at center, Mike Onwenu at right guard and Juwann Bushell-Beatty at right tackle. Michigan had 58 rushing yards in the loss at Notre Dame.
“There’s mistakes and everyone wants to point fingers. It’s football,” Bushell-Beatty said Tuesday night. “I understand that regardless what happens, the O-line is going to take blame for whatever. I’ve accepted that. Whether it’s true or not is not up to me. Just going forward (we’re going to) keep focusing on working hard and doing what we’ve got to do. That’s all there really is to it.”
Bushell-Beatty said some of the criticism is unwarranted.
“But that’s life,” he said. “People are going to criticize you for everything you do. The sooner you learn to accept that, the better.”
He said it’s hard not to read or hear the criticism.
“I don’t look for it, but sometimes it’s in my face,” Bushell-Beatty said. “You scroll through social media, people retweet things or you’re checking your Explorer page or Instagram things pop up or people send you stuff. It is what it is.”
But it can also draw the linemen together under new coach Ed Warinner, who has been roundly praised by the linemen for simplifying the offense.
“You can either curl up and give up or 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.”
The loss at Notre Dame, Bushell-Beatty said, gave the linemen a “benchmark” for what they need to work on and where they need to improve. The Western Michigan win, albeit against a team that had given up 55 points the week before to Syracuse, was a boost.
“I think one of the biggest thing I saw going forward was confidence,” Bushell-Beatty said. “Getting that win under our belt is going to help us moving forward and trusting ourselves and trusting each other as an O-line, as a quarterback, as an entire offense.
"Building momentum is very important. That’s going to allow us to build off last week into this week. (We’re going to) continue to fight each and every down. Don’t give up. Play with a chip on your shoulder. Just continue to fight regardless of the outcome and it’s paying off.”
Michigan's Ambry Thomas on having the ability to change a game on offense. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
A week after scoring on a 99-yard kickoff return, Ambry Thomas made his debut on offense against Western Michigan.
Thomas, considered the fastest player on the team, will continue to work there, although he remains primarily a cornerback and kick returner.
“Sure, that’s something that went good for us,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday when asked if Thomas would get more play on offense after appearing in the Western Michigan game.
Thomas said Harbaugh announced at a team meeting the Monday after the Notre Dame loss that he would play some on offense. Thomas said he worked on a couple plays each day in practice.
Will it be the same this week?
“Yeah,” Thomas said, coyly.
He said he hasn’t been told specifically how he’ll be used going forward.
“They didn’t tell me anything yet,” Thomas said. “They’ve given me certain tasks and I’m accomplishing them. I’m fine with whatever they want me to do.”
Last fall, Thomas told reporters he wanted to play on offense.
“I told you guys, and he shut it down,” Thomas said, referring to Harbaugh. “He came and got me when the time was right.”
Thomas, who played at Detroit King High, said he has known since he was 7 years old playing in the Police Athletic League that he was a playmaker.
“Every time I touched the ball, I just ran and scored,” he said. “They just told me, ‘Run!' That’s all I did. I just ran, like Forrest Gump.”