Hello: Ty Isaac

Submitted by Ace on June 5th, 2014 at 11:29 AM

From the man himself, it's official—USC running back transfer Ty Isaac is coming to Michigan:

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Ty Isaac's Twitter background is the album cover of Biggie's Ready To Die, making this transfer even more full of win than originally thought. 

We still await word on whether Isaac will receive a hardship waiver that allows him to play this fall or if he'll have to sit out a year. Even though Michigan is outside the 100-mile radius that's the normal NCAA standard for granting a hardship, the reason Isaac transferred was so his mother—who's developed an ear condition that prevents her from flying—could drive to his games, something she can do from their Illinois home.

I thought I'd written a Hello post draft back in 2012, when Isaac was down to USC or Michigan in his recruitment. Turns out, the running back whose commitment post never saw the light of day was Bri'onte Dunn. An informative update is forthcoming.

Updated, informatively:


Scout Rivals ESPN 247 247 Comp
5*, #7 RB,
#37 Ovr
5*, #4 RB,
#27 Ovr
4*, 83, #13 ATH,
#122 Ovr
4*, 95, #5 APB,
#85 Ovr
4*, #8 RB,
#54 Ovr

Coming out of high school, the recruiting services regarded Isaac as either one of the very best running backs in the country or a top-100-ish athlete. Naturally, ESPN ranks him the lowest despite an extremely positive scouting report (more on that below).

We don't have to take a guess as to his size; Isaac clocked in at 6'3", 225 pounds as a freshman last season at USC. He's a tall, upright back with the bulk to mash between the tackles and the height/hands combination to be a really dangerous receiving threat out of the backfield.


While Isaac had grabbed the attention of scouts as soon as he played on Joliet Catholic's varsity squad as a freshman, it's hard not to start this section with his record-shattering performance as a junior in the Illinois 5A state championship game, because GOOD GOD:

With 6 minutes and 40 seconds left in the first half, Isaac had already broken the Class 5A title record of 210 yards, set by Rock Island’s Alonzo Wise in 1997. With 48 seconds left  until halftime, he had 376 yards, breaking  a school record and the all-time IHSA rushing record for yards in a state title game regardless of class. Maine South’s Matt Perez had the previous mark in a Class 8A title game with 316 yards against Marist in 2009.

Isaac finished with 515 YARDS AND SIX TOUCHDOWNS ON 26 CARRIES, which definitely merits ALL-CAPS treatment. Search YouTube for "Ty Isaac state championship" and you get a series of clips like this, in which he makes one cut and then explodes past everybody for a touchdown:

Fits zone running scheme: check.

The massive amount of attention Isaac received for his performance didn't please him, however, as Joliet Catholic's defense collapsed and the team fell to Montini, 70-45:

"It wasn’t even something you could enjoy, it was something we needed," Isaac said. "We had to put points up. At the end of the day, it was really irrelevant."

Fits The Pattern™: check.

Aside from his eye-popping numbers, Isaac most impressed scouts with his combination of size, athleticism, and receiving ability. Scout's profile listed his strengths as breakaway speed, change-of-direction, and hands—blocking was the sole area for improvement—accompanied by this scouting report:

Tall, good sized back with the speed to break long runs. Is very smooth, changes directions well and has deceptive elusiveness. Is an excellent route runner and receiver out of the backfield who occasionally can split out or play in the slot. Does a lot of running from the wingback position, so he'll likely have to get used to inside running and blitz pick-up from a more traditional tailback spot in college. - Allen Trieu

Isaac impressed so much in receiving drills at various camps that some thought his best position might actually be out wide, though scouts like Rivals' Josh Helmholdt thought his receiving ability simply added more to his potential as an all-around back ($):

"There was some talk that maybe Ty would flash out to the wide receiver position in college because of his size," said Rivals.com Midwest Recruiting Analyst Josh Helmholdt. "I definitely think his upside is at running back, but that attests to his abilities as a receiver. 

"He is a natural pass catcher with soft hands and obviously the ability to make defenders miss in the open field. He could flash out into the slot at times and create mismatches with linebackers and safeties."

That could make him a great complement to Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, both of whom are much more accomplished runners than receivers. That's not to say Isaac doesn't hold his own as a runner; Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated said there was "not much to critique" in the room for improvement area of this scouting report, while the positives were... quite positive ($):

A polished, fundamentally sound, shifty, explosive running back with excellent size, athleticism and an even-keeled demeanor on and off the football field. A long, explosive, gliding stride with excellent knee lift. Great vision and a find-the-hole, hit-the-hole mentality with the ability to anticipate where the next wave of tacklers is coming from and cut it back against the grain. Weaves through traffic with the greatest of ease.

A naturally instinctive running back. Has the unusual ability for a prep running back to hit the hole square, and then make cuts off a wide, balanced base. Has an explosive gear once the path to paydirt comes in his radar. Nice forward lean with the football. Appears to protect the football well.

Hi. I would like ALL OF THAT. Prister went on to compare Isaac to Eddie George, another big upright back whom you may remember winning the Heisman at Ohio State.

There were concerns coming out of college, given Isaac's film heavy on untouched bursts into the secondary—sorry for being so good, I guess—that he lacked between-the-tackles power or the willingness to run though contact. That's not what ESPN saw when they updated their scouting report for Signing Day 2013 ($):

More of a one-cut-and-get-north type of back, but his vision reading linebacker flow and balance going against the grain are impressive. Has lateral quicks to slip pursuit. He has good feet for his size and the patience needed to follow blocks and let the hole open up. Very good initial take off with a long stride burst to turn the corner. While he can exploit a crease and accelerate through the second level, he makes his mark on strength and will likely do so at the next level. This is a strong runner who can be a load to wrap up solidly, particularly high, when he gets square to the line and utilizes his good downhill burst. Needs to be conscious of pad level and improve lean, but shows good body balance at contact. He's a hard runner who can finish and get the tough yard. Has a sturdy frame with high toughness for multiple carries

That'll do.

Isaac's stock dropped a little bit as a senior, though Scout's Allen Trieu chalked this up to nagging injuries and less-than-stellar competition when he ranked Isaac as the #2 Illinois prospect in his class behind (sigh) Laquon Treadwell ($):

Isaac had a lot to battle this year. He had to fight injury as well as a growing sentiment that he did not play great competition in high school. Maybe those folks forgot about what he did as a junior, or his six touchdowns in the state title game against a good Montini team. He has good size, speed, and a smooth running style that has him compared with some of the USC greats that he now inherits the mantle from. He's also a great receiver out of the backfield, another asset he will bring to SoCal.

So that gets us through his high school career. Isaac's college career got off to a slow start, as he received just ten carries through the first nine games in a crowded backfield. After a breakout performance against Cal (11 carries, 87 yards, 2 TDs) in the tenth game, he mentioned one of the primary reasons it took him a while to get into gear:

Arriving on campus this summer after a storied high school career in which he rushed for a total of 5,305 yards out of a prolific double-wing attack, Isaac had some difficulties early on as he made the switch from wingback to tailback in USC’s intricate pro-style scheme. 

“It was a shock to the system,” Isaac said. “I ran about five plays in high school, and now I’ve got five different reads on one play, so that was definitely something that I had to adjust to.” 

Even though he must switch systems once again, it'll be far less of a transition than going from a very simple high school offense that utilized him as a wingback to a complicated pro-style attack with him as a traditional tailback.


Programs to offer Isaac out of high school included Arizona, Auburn, Clemson, Illinois, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Penn State, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.


If you're really curious, you can read a remarkably extensive history of Joliet Catholic football here.


As a high school junior, Isaac rushed for 2629 yards and 42 touchdowns on 203 carries, posting a ridiculous 13 yards per carry, while adding 360 yards and seven more TDs on 16 receptions (22.5 ypc). I can't find senior stats more specific than 1500 yards and 22 touchdowns on an unknown number of rushes—still not bad for an injury-plagued year.

At USC, he toted the rock 40 times for 236 yards (5.9 ypc) and two TDs, and chipped in four receptions for 57 yards.


247 lists a 40 time of 4.45. I can't find the source of the time, so I'll give it four FAKEs out of five. That would be very impressive for a back of that size, and while Isaac shows off solid top-end speed, he's not a pure burner.


Junior highlights, featuring a whole lot of that state title game:

Senior highlights:

While Cal's defense was, well, bad, you're still going to want to check out his second touchdown run in that game:


A lot of this depends on the status of Isaac's redshirt. If he receives his NCAA waiver and is allowed to play right away, he should factor in immediately to Michigan's running back rotation—he has a size/skill combination, especially when it comes to receiving, that no other U-M back can boast.

If he doesn't get the waiver, that might actually work out best for U-M, as it would put Isaac a year of eligibility behind Green and Smith and give him a clear shot at the full-time starting gig in a few years. Of course, he may very well earn that role before Green and Smith graduate; there's a lot of unknown when it comes to the running backs given the state of the offensive line. No matter what, he should see the field whenever he's allowed to.


This is where the NCAA waiver really comes into play. If Isaac redshirts this season, the need to land an elite back in the 2015 class is somewhat alleviated. If he doesn't, getting a back who will be ready to start in a few years will still be very important. Michigan should take a back regardless, but a potential extra year of Isaac on the roster would soften the blow of possibly missing out on both Damien Harris and Mike Weber.



June 5th, 2014 at 3:37 PM ^

??? Are you not familiar with "chopped liver" in that usage? What it means is that I think Harris is a great recruiting prospect, and I'm disappointed to apparently be out of the running for him. However, Isaac seems to have the potential for being a quality back himself.

As for OSU and MSU and others, they've proven over the recent past that they can get and/or develop game-breaking backs themselves. Definitely not chopped liver.

STW P. Brabbs

June 5th, 2014 at 5:18 PM ^

Harris looks really good, and if I was forced to lay a bet on which back would be better as a college player, I might lean towards Harris.

But Isaac has already shown something at USC, while Harris has some of the same question marks about competition that Isaac did. As well as the standard variance that comes with 18 year old kids leaving home, etc.

I really wanted Isaac two classes ago, more than Dunn and way more than Green. I think there's a very good chance he could end up being a better player than Harris, even if you're only talking about him as a runner.


June 5th, 2014 at 4:19 PM ^

Then they can play for someone else and get destroyed by Gideon, Kirkland, etc once a year. I suspect both of them embrace a challenge though. Regardless, we already have a ton of talent at RB. Welcome aboard Ty!


June 5th, 2014 at 12:11 PM ^

Crazy! Isaac seemed like a lock at one point to come to Michigan. After he chose the Trojans I never would have seen a scenario where he ended up at Michigan.

I want to see some passes out of the backfield to him. From what I remember, he was killer out of the backfield.


June 5th, 2014 at 12:53 PM ^

Is anyone here plugged into USC enough to get an accurate consensus re Isaac's performance and potential there? Were great things still expected of him? Or was he expected to be buried on the depth-chart?


June 5th, 2014 at 12:56 PM ^

I think Isaac is probably better than the guys we have currently, but he was well behind Tre Madden, Buck Allen (both a year ahead, eligibility wise), and Justin Davis (same class).  He is transferring because he wasn't going to see the field if those guys stayed healthy. 

Good pick-up for us, but the comment earlier in the thread about how we're looking like Bama now is pretty ridiculous.


June 5th, 2014 at 1:32 PM ^

I am not disagreeing with you in any way but how good is USC recruiting that a 5 star like Isaac and a 5 star named Green would both be 4th on their depth chart.  Asked another way - Green was the #1 overall RB in his class and yet would be 4th or 5th at USC?  So what were USC's RBs ranked?  :)


June 5th, 2014 at 2:07 PM ^

Using the 247 composite rankings, Allen was a 3-star and the #300 player in the country overall.  Madden came in as a linebacker (and played there to start his SC career) and was a 4-star (#265 overall), and Davis was a 4-star and #98 overall in his class (Isaac was #54 in the same class).  Green was a 5-star and #27 nationally.

I think it is a case where scouting > stars.  All three guys at SC are more dynamic in their cuts, quicker to and through the hole, while still running with good power (because they are going full speed they can deliver a blow or bounce off a tackle). 



June 5th, 2014 at 12:58 PM ^

here are their rushing totals from last season from espn.com, I dont know much about any of the guys except redd who was from penn state

Javorius Allen 135 785 5.8 79 (TD) 14
Tre Madden 138 703 5.1 34 3
Silas Redd 81 376 4.6 23 1
Justin Davis 53 361 6.8 58 (TD) 6
Ty Isaac 40 236 5.9 37 (TD) 2
Soma Vainuku 8 78 9.8 52 (TD) 1
John Akiba 9 36 4.0 9 0
Nelson Agholor 2 8 4.0 13 0
Marqise Lee 6 7 1.2 8 0
Alec Jaffe 1 4 4.0 4 0
Totals 535 2419 4.5 79 29



June 5th, 2014 at 1:13 PM ^

Redd was hurt all year and appeared in just 6 games.  Madden posted 583 yards in the first 5 games before a hamstring injury hobbled him for the rest of the year.  Davis injured his ankle against Notre Dame and missed the entire second half of the season.  Allen didn't get much of a shot until the second half of the season (after Kiffin got fired) and posted four 100-yard games in the last six.

Basically as many injuries as possible happened and Isaac still didn't see significant action except in blowout wins (Cal, Colorado, Fresno State).  He never got more than three touches in any other game.

turd ferguson

June 5th, 2014 at 2:27 PM ^

He was also a true freshman getting acclimated to an entirely unfamiliar offense... not to mention in his first semester of college all the way on the other side of the country.

But carry on about how "buried" he was on the depth chart and how much you've inferred from this.


June 5th, 2014 at 2:51 PM ^

Tre Madden was a sophomore who was moving from linebacker to running back and coming off a major knee injury that cost him the entire 2012 season.  Buck Allen was a sophomore who had never carried the ball more than twice in a game before this season.  And he's from Florida, which is across the country and that apparently makes it harder to be good at football.  And three guys in front of him got hurt.  He still didn't play.  Isaac was USC's fifth best tailback last year and he would have been USC's fourth best tailback this coming season.  And the guys ahead of him all have eligibility in 2015 as well, so he wasn't going to get major carries there unless multiple guys got hurt.  I don't know why this fact would anger you so much.

I'm glad you're so stoked to get the Trojans' leftovers, but nobody there is upset that he is gone (and the question I responded to was about the SC perspective on Isaac, a subject on which I am way less harsh than any Trojan fan I know).  If you think Isaac would rise up the depth chart at SC if only given more time, then more power to you.  Ty Isaac seems to disagree with you.  That is why he's leaving and coming to Michigan. 

turd ferguson

June 5th, 2014 at 3:07 PM ^

Yes, because it's inconceivable that an 18-year-old who moves away from mom and dad for the first time (2000 miles away, in fact), into an entirely unfamiliar offense, set of pressures, community, etc., might require more than a few weeks to get acclimated.  I'm sure that you, being PurpleStuff, are perfectly able to project how a guy will perform over his 4-5 years in college based on his first few months.  Are you also one of the guys around here who thinks that guys like Kalis, Magnuson, Bosch, and Kugler were total busts in college?

Plus, isn't it just a little bit possible that the fact that his mom apparently can't fly to see him - to visit, to watch his games, etc. - might have something to do with his transfer?  Or that he was uncomfortable there in ways that might not reflect how he'll perform as a Michigan running back?

Again, though, don't let that stop you from making the most uncharitable, dickish interpretation possible, as you often seem to do.


June 5th, 2014 at 3:41 PM ^

Everyone takes time to develop.  Except Mike Williams (from Florida), Dwayne Jarrett (from New Jersey), Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and loads of other true freshmen who have won championships and put up gaudy statistics at just one school where I'm naming guys off the top of my head.

Luckily our senior leadership has allowed us to win way more games than USC the last decade plus, so the plan is working.

USC has three really good backs (all posted multiple 100-yard games last year).  They were all freshmen and sophomores last year.  Pointing out that they are better than another guy is not being uncharitable or dickish.  It is living in reality.  I'm sorry you take that as a terrible insult to the guy who is transferring so he doesn't have to sit on the bench behind those guys (and who I stated pretty clearly is probably the best UM back from day one, barring a surprise from someone like Justice Hayes).

turd ferguson

June 5th, 2014 at 4:34 PM ^

I don't know if you're intentionally misrepresenting my point, misreading it, or misunderstanding it, but please point me where I said that "everyone takes time to develop" or no one has ever contributed as a freshman.  Obviously exceptions exist, but many, many, many great college football players did not do much on the field as true freshmen.  

I don't have any idea what "plan" you're talking about and I see that you're still unwilling to consider the possibility that maybe Isaac is transferring for reasons other than playing time (e.g., like the apparent fact that his mom can't come to see him).

Whatever, though, this conversation isn't going anywhere.  


June 5th, 2014 at 6:20 PM ^

That maybe he transferred solely because of his mom's health?  Fine, that may be the case, but it doesn't change anything about where he stood with respect to the other backs on USC's roster (which was the discussion you interrupted with your butt-hurt defense of a poor player being bombarded with facts about how little he saw the field despite ample opportunity to climb the depth chart). 

That he wasn't as good as the other backs at USC because of his age/experience/place of origin?  I think I refuted that one by pointing out the stories behind the other guys (none had any experience, one was also a true freshman, one was switching positions and coming off a major injury, all are underclassmen rather than experienced vets, etc.). 

That despite not being as good as those guys now, he may have gotten better than them in the future?  If so, what are you basing that opinion on? 

I can't think of a lot of great skill position players who were 5th on the depth chart as a true freshman.  Just about every great skill player at USC from the Pete Carroll era on made an impact at that point in their career.  They weren't only getting trotted out when the score is 42-10, even after three guys go down with injuries.  Kareem Kelly had 900+ yards as a true freshman WR.  Keary Colbert started as a true freshman in 2000 and was the team's second leading receiver behind Kelly.  Mike Williams put up 1,200+ yards as a true freshman in 2002.  LenDale White ran for 781 yards and 13 TD.  Reggie Bush racked up 1,300+ all purpose yards.  Steve Smith was the third leading receiver on a national title team that had Colbert and Williams.  Dwayne Jarrett gained 849 yards and caught 13 TD to lead a team that won a national title.  Robert Woods posted just under 800 yards receiving.  Marqise Lee put up 1,100+.  Joe McKnight had 903 all-purpose yards.  Damian Williams started at Arkansas on a run-first team where he was 2nd in receptions and put up 800+ yards once he was eligible at SC. 

Of the USC RB and WR in that time who went in the first 5 rounds of the draft, only Patrick Turner isn't on that list (eventually a 3rd round pick, he was a fringe contributor as a freshman and sophomore).  So it would seem, at least at USC, the great skill position players just about all contribute heavily right out of the gate.  The ones who get homesick or whatever else don't end up being that great, historically speaking.


June 5th, 2014 at 5:36 PM ^

And if the depth chart was only limited to guys in his recruiting cycle, then you're right, Isaac would have been right near the top.  Unfortunately other guys are allowed to play, so he still would need to see a rash of injuries in front of him before he got significant carries next year. 

What is your point?  Honestly.  That all prior evidence (playing time, production, etc.) should be ignored when evaluating a player because now he plays for your favorite team?  I've said I think he can make a positive impact here at Michigan.  I also noted that he was buried on the depth chart at USC.  What are you disagreeing with?  I didn't say he sucks.  I simply pointed out when someone brought up the subject that no one at USC expected him to be a major contributor going forward because the other guys on the roster are better players.  Steve Sarkisian would much rather sign another blue-chip back in the upcoming recruiting class than sit around hoping Ty Isaac pans out as a senior.  Sorry that fact hurts your feelings.


June 5th, 2014 at 7:12 PM ^

The point is that there really isn't much evidence on Isaac. Just that his peer Davis was in front of him and two third-year players started ahead of him.

I'm disagreeing with your assertion that Isaac left USC because he was buried on the depth chart. That is crap. The "prior evidence" you cite is thin at best. It's only evidence that he wasn't as ready to play out of the gate as Davis was last year -- by mid-season, when Davis went down, he still wasn't ready. Then the coach got fired! You act like it was a normal year. The fact they didn't use Isaac much doesn't mean squat. Far more likely than what you're saying is that he was still learning the offense, and he just wasn't ready. The whole offense was not available when he was in, so they didn't use him. Yet they still gave him some touches. They had Allen, and Madden off and on. Both with two more years in the offense than Isaac. You're twisting facts and fudging things, and basically not acknowledging that you have no freaking idea where Isaac would have ended up had he stayed at SC this year.



June 5th, 2014 at 7:52 PM ^

Have you seen any of these guys actually play football?  It is pretty clear that Allen/Madden/Davis are better players after a quick eyeball test.  If he didn't have 5-stars next to his name coming out of high school, would you have any reason to think he's going to be a superstar here at UM?  Based on one long run in the second half of a blowout against Cal (a team that surrendered 192 yards and 3 TD to Buck Allen on just 7 touches earlier in the game)?

You should also know that Isaac just went through all of spring practice at USC with the new staff, and he's still buried on the depth chart.  Three different head coaches are all in agreement about where he stands in comparison to those other three guys.  They aren't speculating.  They decide who plays and who doesn't.  I'll take their word for it.  It doesn't mean he can't help here.  USC's fourth best tailback looks like a potential upgrade to me after the last two seasons.


June 6th, 2014 at 12:04 AM ^

I think you're conflating me with other people, but whatever. I'm saying you don't know, and if you think you know, you're wrong.

You can't have it both ways. You can't damn him for not playing and then turn around and say you have performed a "quick eyeball test." On what?

Now you claim to know what the coaches think of Isaac, based solely on his lack playing time last year and now his supposed performance this Spring under the new regime. So you participate in USC practices and attend coaches meetings? It's just laughable.


June 5th, 2014 at 4:34 PM ^

It is true that Justin Davis was clearly ahead of Isaac before he was injured. But he was also ahead of Allen (a redshirt sophomore, by the way, so 2013 was his third year in LA). Madden was ahead of Davis, but Davis was still seeing the ball quite a bit -- as a true freshman at USC.

The fact Davis was a better option than Isaac as a true freshman isn't saying much. For two related reasons. One, Davis looks like he is pretty special. Two, it doesn't say anything about how close Isaac may have been to Davis. You don't know. The competition may have been closer than you assume.


June 5th, 2014 at 5:29 PM ^

The homerism and magical thinking going on here is pretty impressive.  I suppose saying Terry Richardson won't start at corner for Michigan this year would also be "crap, pure speculation" and not based on watching who the coaches put on the field and at the top of the depth chart or noticing how guys perform when they see the field. 

Can't wait to see Russell Bellomy rip shit up this year.  Anyone who doesn't assume he's now way better than Gardner and Morris, since the earth continues to turn and he could very well be getting super awesomer with each passing day, is just speculating.



June 5th, 2014 at 10:21 PM ^

Richardson didn't play at all last year, his second year in the program. So that's a completely bullshit example, and doesn't compare at all to Isaac at USC last year.

A better analogy would be De'Veon Smith last year. He was stuck behind Green. Only got into four games at running back. Probably close to the same number of meaningful carries as Isaac at USC -- more than zero, but not many. Can you say with any certainty what Smith will do this year? I thought he looked pretty good the few real touches he had. But the coaches obviously weren't comfortable with him in, so Green got most of the experience.