John Beilein Uses Nick Saban Video To Motivate Michigan's Freshmen

One great coach echoing the message of another.

Will Burchfield
December 03, 2018 - 5:52 pm

© David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

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After watching Michigan pick apart his Purdue team on Saturday, Matt Painter said the Wolverines have "the perfect number" of players logging significant minutes. John Beilein feels otherwise. 

"We can't count on a seven-man rotation," he said on Monday. 

With that in mind, Beilein had his players watch the tribute Nick Saban delivered after the SEC Championship game to Jalen Hurts, who stuck with his teammates and stayed ready despite losing his starting quarterback job at the start of this season. Hurts was rewarded when he replaced the injured Tua Tagovailoa on Saturday and became the hero of Alabama's latest triumph. 

Beilein wanted his freshman, in particular, to appreciate the value of patience. Only one member of No. 5 Michigan's highly-touted recruiting class has earned steady minutes thus far in 19-year-old Ignas Brazdeikis. Fellow four-star recruits Brandon Johns, David DeJulius​ and Colin Castleton have barely seen the floor. And the seven-man rotation is real. After Eli Brooks, who's getting about 18 minutes per game, the most-utilized player is junior forward Austin Davis, who's averaging 4.5 minutes. 

Eventually that will change, either by circumstance or the growth of the players on the bench. Beilein would rather it be the latter. 

"We played the Nick Saban clip yesterday about the Alabama quarterback situation and how the kid waited all year and how his name is forever a part of Alabama culture with what he's done, and how important it is that you have to be ready," Beilein said. "Most young men are not going to walk on in their first year and be this immediate success, (but) coaches get them in at the end.

"Even the stars, the LeBrons and Kobes that went to the pros their first year, those were not great years. But it’s all relative for them. And we continually point out who was not on our scouting report two years ago, three years ago that’s a star now." 

Saban's message seemed to resonate with Beilein's players. 

"It’s inspiring to me," Brazdeikis said. "I feel like we're such a family on this team and I love it. Seeing my brothers succeed and do well is just everything to me. We have that next-man-up kind of mentality, which is similar to Alabama. Whoever’s doing well, whoever’s helping the team win should play, and that’s the way we think."

No one on Michigan's roster embodies the importance of patience better than Jon Teske. He played sparingly as a freshman, began to blossom as a sophomore and this year is a major contributor on one of the best teams in the country. His playing time through eight games has doubled from last season. Hurts enjoyed a much more glamorous journey at the start, but he came to be tested in a similar way to Teske. 

"You could see how that’s connected," Teske said. "Just waiting your turn, not necessarily being the man but you’re always in the background. You work hard each and every day in practice against the starters, and once it is your turn to shine you just have to go out there and play your best."

After playing 12.5 minutes per game last season, Teske is up to 25.5 minutes while averaging over eight points, six rebounds and two blocks. 

"It was great to hear Coach Saban, he’s a great coach," Teske said. "I was actually watching that game after our game (against Purdue). To see Hurts go in there and throw a couple touchdown passes and lead them to victory, (Beilein) just kind of explained to us, it doesn’t matter where you’re at on the team, really. As long as you come to practice every day and work hard, there’s going to be an opportunity at any one point.

"He was just saying last year how the roles were reversed when Tua came in and threw the touchdown in the championship game. He said at any one point it can be flipped, so you just have to be ready." 

For the likes of Johns and DeJulius​​ -- both of whom are pushing for more playing time, Beilein said -- that moment could arrive soon.