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 7:10 PM ^

Purple - I respect your insight not knowing much about USC depth chart, so thanks.  From your answers in other subjects I know you to be even handed so I prefer that to the sunshine blowing.

It does go to show how these STARZ are so wildly a guess - a converted LB and a 300 overall as top 2 RBs ahead of a top 50 type player is interesting - I cannot remember UM every converting a defensive player into a star RB (I think Reon Dawson is one we are trying but I mean someone who turned into a #1). 

I agree a bit on the homerism and the downvoting is silly.  It is no shame to say other players were ahead of Isaac last year.  It is not like he was competing with seniors.  And for those who say a freshman cannot come in right away and suceed well he had a guy in his own class who did, so that's silly too - and I wont bother throwing out the stud who went to South Carolina a few years back or the TJ Yeldon's.

None of this does means it cannot be a valuable pickup for UM (let's hope so) or hat Isaac won't be a success.  Realistically if he had come out of the barn early as a big time polished product he would not be available to UM for transfer - he most likely would still be at USC (with the caveat of his mom's situation hanging over that)

I just was curious what type of people were ahead of him and how they got more playing time since he was a 5 star so thanks for the answers and I tried to upvote you along the way on your answers to offset the "don't say anything mildly negative" crowd. 


June 5th, 2014 at 12:59 PM ^

LA Daily News writer Scott Wolf, who hates the Big Ten, wrote:

Former USC tailback Ty Isaac is expected to transfer to Michigan, according to CBS Sports.com. Frankly, Isaac’s style seems better suited for the Big 10 so this seems like a good move for him.


June 5th, 2014 at 1:34 PM ^

It is "stacked" in stars right now - in terms of on field production the jury is very much out and UM fans should know that more than anyone after the last decade.  I dont count anything as stacked until these guys produce on the field.  If it was Wheatley, A-Train, and Chris Perry all returning - that is stacked.  Right now we have a collection of highly rated HS players who have scant production in the NCAA.  So not stacked yet.


June 5th, 2014 at 1:47 PM ^

The numbers are getting tight. If you assume former walkons G Glasgow and Kerridge continue to get a scholarship each year (as they did last year in 2013), then there are ONLY 10 scholarships available in the 2015 recruiting class before considering any unexpected attrition.

10. No typo - 10. And there are already 6 commits.


June 5th, 2014 at 2:03 PM ^

While it says no particular order, this isn't exactly alphabetical order either. Crystal ball on 247 Sports says 54% Michigan. From Auden Tate Link




June 5th, 2014 at 2:31 PM ^

Any idea on when we'll find out if he has to redshirt or not? Also I hope we handle this better than we did Devin's medical redshirt. We uh not so a good wit da paperwork.(w/Italian hand gesture)


June 5th, 2014 at 9:14 PM ^

My favorite runner ever at Michigan.  I was crushed when he got hurt.

He ran "digitally", like in a Frogger video game.  One second he was in one lane, the next second he was in another lane, the next another . . . all while running at full speed.

His cuts looked like this:



















June 5th, 2014 at 2:58 PM ^

I wonder of having another stud back will hurry recruiting this year even if he doesn't get the waiver. I know kids are competitive, but there are now three kids on the roster who could be the best back on most college teams.


June 5th, 2014 at 3:04 PM ^

"I know kids are competitive, but there are now three kids on the roster who could be the best back on most college teams."

Two of the three guys I assume you're talking about were beaten out for playing time last year by Drake Johnson and Justice Hayes at various junctures. They're not even clearly the best back on our favorite college team, which doesn't have much of a running game.


June 5th, 2014 at 6:41 PM ^

To begin the year, he was. The year probably wouldn't have ended that way, but if Smith or Green had looked fantastic right off the bat, they would have surpassed Johnson immediately.

El Jeffe

June 5th, 2014 at 3:07 PM ^


  • 1st down: D. Green rushes for 4 yards
  • 2nd down: D. Smith rushes for 4 yards
  • 3rd down: T. Isaac rushes for 4 yards and a FIRST DOWN


  • 3rd down: T. Isaac catches pass for 10 yards and a FIRST DOWN


  • 3rd down: Play action pass to A. Darboh for 45 yards and a TOUCHDOWN (T. Isaac on blitz pickup)

That'll do.

True Blue Grit

June 5th, 2014 at 3:37 PM ^

ability as I am about his running.  Getting a big, fast guy like that out in the open field either on a screen pass or quick toss out of the backfield is pretty exciting.  


June 5th, 2014 at 3:58 PM ^

I have very vivid memories of watching Ty's highlights the first time. At some point I stopped counting how many times he ran for 50+ yds TDs. It was incredible, bordering on comical. That was when I dreamed of seeing him play in a winged helmet. The whole USC thing from the "accidentally" bumping into Arnold Schwarzenegger during a recruiting trip to the eventual commitment really stung.

I always felt we were the perfect fit for Ty. And now it all happens, even if a year or two later.

Welcome aboard young man! And Go Blue!


June 5th, 2014 at 4:16 PM ^

with USC after the Justin Fargas (Huggy Bear's son) transfer many years ago. I hope he has as a good a career as Fargas who was a pretty good back for the Raiders for a few years.


June 5th, 2014 at 5:31 PM ^

So, looking at the 2013 team rankings, Isaac woud give Michigan the 4th best class for rivals and the best class for scout so... yay!


June 5th, 2014 at 6:02 PM ^

TA DA !!!!   I just saw this... Fantastic...... 

So is this payback to USC for Fargas?

Big things ahead, folks..... we are gonna back, quite soon.


June 5th, 2014 at 7:03 PM ^

This takes less stress off us for getting a running back this year. We can be somewhat picky and go after elite talent running backs and not settle for lesser talent. Now we have two five star running backs on our team Isaac and Green. Not to mention Smith And Hayes. If he is able to play this year that would make us deep at running back. The best part about Isaac is his hands he can catch the ball. He will add another dimension to our offense which can really help since our O-line has been struggling. I just hope we can block and if we do block we will have good run game.


June 6th, 2014 at 10:14 AM ^

Barry Sanders: arguably the GOAT RB of NCAA and NFL.

FROSH Barry Sanders: 325 yds, 74 att, ~4.4 avg, 2 TD

FROSH Ty Isaac: 236 yds, 40 att, 5.9 avg, 2 TD


FROSH Isaac averaged ~34% more yards per carry than FROSH Sanders and was almost twice as likely to score a TD on any given touch.


We got the GOAT!