2009 Recruiting: Isaiah Bell Comment Count

Brian March 3rd, 2009 at 1:27 PM

Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty and LB Mike Jones.

Youngstown, Ohio - 6'0" 209
Liberty #4 Isaiah Bell takes off for a decent gain in first half action at Brookfield - chasing him is Brookfield  Taylor Broooks - blocking Taylor is #58 Anthony Gutierrez - robertkyosay Scout 3*, #46 S
Rivals 3*, #26 OLB
ESPN 81, #11 S, #95 overall
Others #94 to Takkle.
Other Suitors WVU, Cinci
YMRMFSPA Prescott Burgess
Previously On
Hello: Isaiah Bell
Notes Teammate of Toussaint. UA game participant.

Isaiah Bell's March commitment was one of Michigan's first of 2009. Bell was one of the few Midwestern recruits Rich Rodriguez had a pre-existing relationship with, and that relationship paid off:

"West Virginia was always one of my top choices, but then I found out coach Rod was leaving for Michigan, and that's what made them move up to No. 1 on my list," Bell said. "I remember it was real late at night and me and my family were up discussing which school was best for me and I said 'I'm going to sleep on it and when I wake up whatever college is on my mind, that's the school I'm going to commit to.' When I woke up, Michigan was there."

Offers as early as Bell's early usually indicate kids of significant talent, but he was just a random three-star safety/linebacker (and wide receiver and kick returner and punt returner) who happened to be the teammate of more exciting RB Fitzgerald Toussaint until ESPN saw fit to slather heaps of ridiculous praise on him:

I don't know if the "I" in Isaiah stands for interception or the "B" in Bell means big playmaker, but one thing for certain, this guy is a good football player. … Rules the secondary as a free safety. Has great instincts and plays outstanding zone coverage especially in the three deep. … A real competitor who can break a game wide open. … A magnificent kickoff return specialist … Can change direction without loss of speed or balance. Bell will be a big time player at a big time college. Just a little fundamental work is needed.

Emphasis mine: the laws of physics do not apply to Isaiah Bell! Get that weak shit out of here, physics!

Elsewhere in "ESPN loves Isaiah Bell":

  • Looked "good on the hoof" at his NIKE camp: "It's hard not to see a potential 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame in two or three years."
  • In ESPN's category rankings of safeties they declared it "astonishing" how someone Bell's size can play three-deep coverage; anyone who recalls the way the 2008 defense played underneath routes will be relieved to read this: "Besides quickness out of his break, he displays catch-up speed in running down receivers in the open field … he should be an excellent hook and curl defender."
  • ESPN would run a contentious chat later in the year that had a lot of questions like "Will Campbell and Justin Turner WTF?" from Michigan fans. Bell's name came up:

    As far as Bell goes -- we feel this is a kid with tremendous upside and a great blend of size, speed and ball skills at the safety position. He has a really long, rangy frame that has a ton of physical development left while retaining his good speed and athleticism.

  • In an article on ESPN 150 sleepers, he came in for major praise:

    Impressive now, but the No. 91-ranked player has a ton of upside projected to the next level, both physically and athletically. … His biggest recruiting dilemma, and perhaps the major root of his national obscurity, may be trying to figure out what position to play him. He rules the secondary as a free safety but is built more like an outside linebacker. His continued physical development should dictate eventual position and success. His great instincts and competitive nature will make him a valuable football player at the college level, regardless of position.

After all that, ESPN slotted Bell in their top 100 and gave him an invite to their All-Star game. Because obviously they had to.

Unfortunately, no one else thought much of him except "TAKKLE," which is associated with SI and rated him about where ESPN did. Takkle's been around for a few years now but I don't know how much credence to lend those rankings. I do tend to favor Scout and Rivals assessments, and as you can see above both were pretty meh on Bell.

Part of that may be position uncertainty, but Bell projects as an outside linebacker in college and impressed in that role during the UnderArmor game:

With the employment of a lot of Cover 3, this week's practice has showcased several safeties playing down in the box over slots -- and looking impressive. Black's Isaiah Bell (Youngstown, Ohio/Liberty) came into this game with a reputation for his great run-stopping skills, but he has surprised me with his ability to open his hips and turn and run with faster slots. On a few plays, Bell even mirrored a quicker Andre Debose (Sanford, Fla./Seminole) tightly out of his breaks and made plays on the ball.

Rivals also named him one of the best players on his team:

6-1/209, Youngstown (Ohio) Liberty
After struggling through the first practice and temporarily moving to linebacker, Bell found his rhythm starting on Day Two. A big safety, he was able to come up to the line of scrimmage and stop the run as well as cover the inside receivers. Though he could add some bulk and be a very good outside linebacker at Michigan, he has the instincts of a safety in the passing game. Sunday's game proved that as he finished second on the team with five tackles and also added a pass breakup. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

He slotted in just ahead of five-star all-everything QB Russell Shepard(!). Strangely, this impressive performance had zero impact on his ratings. He checks in as the #27 player in Ohio at Rivals, one slot below a guy going to Akron. He's not even close to getting a fourth star. So… top ten player at an All-Star game or not quite good enough to beat out a MAC prospect? I don't know.

Oh, hell, let's add one more log to the fire of confusion:

Simply put, Isaiah Bell is the best safety nobody is talking about.

He has the instincts of a linebacker against the run and is a very good sized safety. The 6-2, 215 pounds seems a bit on the small side. …

Bell has the wingspan of a lineman. In fact, I would not be surprised if he ends up growing into a linebacker. He has a nice frame and I have noticed these long limbed kids tend to fill out a good bit. He is big enough to take on blockers and still make plays but he is fast enough to make plays in the open field. Once he finds the ball, he closes like nobody’s business.

But Bell has such tremendous ball skills that he could just as easily be a free safety. He has the best ball skills I have seen from a projected safety in this class.

That's from Duane Long, an Ohio recruiting scout, in a blurb about the #29 player in the state. WTF.

So… yeah. Here's some video, you may as well make up your own mind. No one else is saying anything that makes sense.

As for yrs truly's opinion: I'm more excited about Bell than his ratings might indicate. In the new era of spread-mad football it's critical to have guys who can cover like Bell apparently can and not like, say, Johnny Thompson does. Or, more to the point, doesn't. No offense to Thompson; it's just he was born 20 years too late to be a linebacker. A guy with Bell's versatility could be a major asset if he pans out. Everything I've read on Bell is extremely positive, and there are more opinions out there than just that of sometimes-wack ESPN. I don't get the three-star ratings from Scout and Rivals given what even their analysts have said, and think Bell is one of the most underrated guys in the class.

Etc.: Google turns up weird stuff sometimes. Varsity Blue scouted a Liberty-Howland game in which Bell featured. He's got an NFL Draft Scout profile already?

Why Prescott Burgess? Bell isn't ranked anywhere near as high as Burgess, a consensus five-star recruit, was, but Burgess turned out to be somewhat overrated. In any case, both are Ohio safeties who are destined for OLB; Burgess was also pretty good in coverage. They're about the same size, too.

Guru Reliability: Low despite an All-Star appearance. There are two warring camps and no internal consistency with his ratings.
General Excitement Level: I think he's better than the three stars he's been awarded by the major sites outside of ESPN but he is definitely a project; I'd say high.
Projection: Redshirt, ,and then think he's the most likely of the OLB recruits to win a job early. High ceiling.



March 3rd, 2009 at 1:56 PM ^

He has stud linebacker written all over him. He will be a good outside linebacker after his redshirt and transition. I love the mention of his good tackling skills and run support......and he can cover guys!


March 3rd, 2009 at 2:01 PM ^

i really put alot of stock into brian's assessment of recruits, so hopefully it works out. but if hes so good, why doesnt he field any big time offers? this guy seems like one giant paradox....


March 3rd, 2009 at 2:06 PM ^

sorry to nit pick, but you can change direction without losing SPEED. You're thinking of elastic collisions which can only occur in a frictionless environment, which obviously doesn't exist.

But if you release more energy into a system during the acceleration (such as using your muscles) you can actually achieve greater kinetic energy after the collision (foot to ground). of course, if you're already at top speed before changing direction, then no, you couldn't maintain that speed after the direction change unless the turf were elastic, which it's not. but i digress

also, wasn't prescott burgess a lot bigger? at least during his final two years he often lined up as one of three down linemen, even in the 1 and 2 gaps. I thought he was a bit taller.

edit: maybe I'm thinking of crable.

Willie Heston

March 3rd, 2009 at 2:09 PM ^

to this:

"A magnificent kickoff return specialist"

Seriously, if the dude can hang onto the rock, know when and when not to run out of the endzone (vs taking a knee), and not run backwards to avoid a hit---then I'm Bell's biggest fan.

We MUST improve on special teams this year to give the team a fighting chance.

Ali G Bomaye

March 3rd, 2009 at 2:49 PM ^

Is there something wrong with me, as a 26-year-old straight male, getting really really excited about the physical characteristics of 18-year-old guys? I mean, I probably won't even see him in a Michigan uniform for a year and a half, at least.


March 3rd, 2009 at 3:16 PM ^

Injuries, other guys not panning out, angry Michigan LB-hating God, etc. will provide the opening. Greg Robinson will be a big fan early.


March 3rd, 2009 at 6:41 PM ^

Both with an INT and a kick, Bell consistently headed upfield as soon as he got the ball, rather than dinking and dunking horizontally. One of the reasons Desmond was devastating as a punt returner was that he accelerated directly upfield through the seams in the coverage, which enabled him to use momentum to his advantage.


March 4th, 2009 at 12:15 AM ^

The int. he got at about 2:05(ish) in the video is awesome! He really got UP to get that ball. Could he be the chosen one? The one of the prophecy? The one who will defy the safety-hating-gods and turn them back into the boy-band-hating gods and forever rid us of the Jonas brothers?