ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When Juwann Bushell-Beatty considered the value of taking care of himself, he didn’t necessarily have an aha moment.
But the offensive lineman looked around last summer at his Michigan football teammates and saw the changes they were making to better themselves and better their bodies in order to be successful at football.
Then, Bushell-Beatty looked at himself, and looked at the scale.
Weighing 340 pounds wasn’t going to cut it. So the redshirt sophomore from Paramus, N.J., pushed away fried foods and fast food, and made it a point to spend as much time as possible in the weight room at Schembechler Hall.
Bushell-Beatty committed himself to being in better shape.
“I knew I had to do that to put myself in a better position to play,” Bushell-Beatty said Tuesday. “Seeing everyone’s success, I realized, I felt I would be better off making this change to my body and trying to be more competitive.”
Now, he’s 6 feet 6 and weighs 315 pounds, after shedding fat and putting on muscle. His diligence has helped him secure a spot in Michigan’s offensive line rotation, and with an injury to starting left tackle Grant Newsome, could put Bushell-Beatty in position to start when No. 4 Michigan (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten Conference) faces Rutgers (2-3, 0-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, N.J.
“He’s really changed his body,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He’s in much better condition. He’s had strength gains, he’s changed his proportions, he looks good and he is stronger.
“He’s been extremely good and ascending in his physical performance because of it.”
Bushell-Beatty has played in eight games during the last two seasons, on Michigan’s offensive line and on special teams. He replaced Newsome (season-ending knee injury) at left tackle in the first half of Michigan’s 14-7 win last Saturday against No. 11 Wisconsin.
Bushell-Beatty said Tuesday he is rotating at left tackle in this week’s practices with Mason Cole. Harbaugh was complimentary of Bushell-Beatty’s performance.
“That’s really the first choice going forward this week,” Harbaugh said.
Garden State of mind
Bushell-Beatty and defensive end Rashan Gary are two of nine players on Michigan’s roster who hail from New Jersey and who return this weekend to the Garden State. Additionally, linebackers coach/special teams coach Chris Partridge coached at Paramus (N.J.) Catholic, where he coached Bushell-Beatty, Gary and Jabrill Peppers before joining Michigan’s staff in 2015, and passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch is from Livingston, N.J.
Two of Gary’s state-mates, Ron Johnson and Kareem Walker, shouted “Jersey!” to Gary as he conducted interviews Tuesday night.
Gary also dropped some Jersey slang on the media contingent Tuesday night. He occasionally calls some of his teammates “big brother,” which he explained is a term that’s a sign of respect.
“Taco (Charlton) and Chris Wormley, those are my big brothers,” Gary said. “Anything I need, any questions, they have me. It’s like I’m their little brother. When I see them and walk by them, it’s like, ‘What’s good, big brother?’ That’s how close the bond is. When I just got here, they welcomed me with open arms.”
Update on Johnson
Michigan running back Drake Johnson has dressed for two of Michigan’s first five games but has yet to carry the ball this season. Harbaugh said Tuesday that Johnson has been practicing.
“He was working through a soft tissue injury,” Harbaugh said of Johnson, a fifth-year senior who has 641 career rushing yards and 10 career touchdowns (rushing and receiving). “It’s gotten better each week.”
Harbaugh did not clarify if Johnson’s injury was related to an accident earlier this year, in which a forklift ran over Johnson in the Michigan track facility.
Not in their house
For Michigan’s upperclassmen, there’s still a bit of a residual sting from Michigan’s last trip to Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights beat the Wolverines, 26-24, on Oct. 4, 2014 in Piscataway, N.J., as Kemoko Turay blocked Matt Wile’s 56-yard field-goal attempt with 3:01 left in the game.
After the game, Rutgers students rushed the field and tore down the goalposts at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Michigan offensive lineman Kyle Kalis made a declaration Tuesday: “That’s not going to happen again.”