The Curious Case of Isaiah Bell

Submitted by blueloosh on February 15th, 2011 at 10:56 AM

Isaiah Bell was regarded as an average safety by Scout and Rivals, but ESPN* had him as a top 100 overall player, invited him to their all-star game, and wrote an over-the-top positive appraisal of his playmaking skills in the secondary.  A sample:

...shows outstanding ball skills...rules the secondary as a free safety. Has great instincts and plays outstanding zone coverage especially in the three deep. Should be a solid halves player also in two deep zone...Breaks quickly on the pass with a burst to the football. High points the football and has great timing on the interception...magnificent kickoff return specialist; has good speed and can read his blocks. Has a second gear and can kick it in to blow by would-be tacklers....A good openfield tackler...has good foot agility and shows flexibility in the hips. Can change direction without loss of speed or balance...

Note the many comments about speed/agility. 

Amidst other threads I often bring up Bell to a resounding chorus of confused shrugs.  No one seems to know much except that he was converted to LB, and got a lot bigger.  That move always seemed odd to me since we are so weak/thin at safety.  (I do not mean weak/thin literally, as a shot at Vinopal--you know what I mean.)

So...commenters at Scout are now suggesting Bell is moving to DE. (!?)

The kid who was a "magnificent kickoff return specialist" is being pushed up to the line?  Does that seem odd, especially with the new staff's presumed emphasis on defensive bone density?

This is a pretty bizarre positional evolution for this kid, no?  Free safety / kick returner to DL?  Can you really eat and lift your way across the positional ocean like that?

Please help me understand, so I can stop typing sentences with question marks.

*I know a lot of people think ESPN's rankings are generally sub-par or impacted by a conflict of interest since they also host one of the two all-star games.  The first point is simply wrong (some discussion here).  But there may be some merit to the second argument, and since Bell was an UA invitee, I am willing to give the rating an asterisk.



February 15th, 2011 at 11:02 AM ^

Given that the new staff hasn't seen Bell practice, and the only film they have of him is from High School, 2 years ago, I'm guessing that reports suggesting "he's moving to DE" are either from an idea floated during the RR era, or an outright lie.


February 15th, 2011 at 4:17 PM ^

wanted to be a safety well why didn't the coaches let him play safety? I watch that all star game.he had a interception,also Craig Roh was just a beast at DE. I liked Rich Rod but this just adds to crazyness that he did. Maybe this want happen with two great defensive minds on the staff.GO BLUE!!!


February 15th, 2011 at 11:14 AM ^

he was a student manager so he has some insight from watching practices and observing players.  He knows what's going on based on the last few years as a student manager.


I've heard rumor that Bell ballooned to 275 lbs but the rumor has some merit, sort of since he went up to 260 lbs.  260 lbs which is a 30 plus lbs gain which is obscene even for a college football player.


February 15th, 2011 at 11:19 AM ^

I was really hoping to open this thread to find that he was born an old wrinkley man and is getting younger as he progresses through life. I figured maybe if it was about a Michigan football player it wouldn't be a flaming pile of a movie


February 15th, 2011 at 11:21 AM ^

It's really too bad.  He was a good athlete coming out of high school.  Maybe the new coaching staff can get something out of him.  I think the previous staff was pretty bad at choosing its personnel, so hopefully Hoke, Mattison, and Co. have a better idea how to use their players.


February 15th, 2011 at 11:26 AM ^

Do you mean just on defense?  I can think of at least a few good choices on offense (Denard, Roundtree, and Lewan).

To be fair, some of their choices on defense (e.g., Brandin Hawthorne) look shaky, and I'm not even counting the ones that fled or the academically shaky ones that they should never have pursued.


February 15th, 2011 at 11:54 AM ^

We'll we've had McGuffie play over Minor, Vincent Smith play over everybody, Jeremy Gallon starting at returner, Obi Ezeh starting over Demens, Cam Gordon playing free safety, Craig Roh playing linebacker, etc.


February 15th, 2011 at 12:35 PM ^

To be fair, I don't know if you can count starting McGuffie over minor against RichRod. Minor came out and said not only was he not giving his all to football the beginning of that year but his wrist was hurt so badly he couldn't stiff arm with that hand let alone carry the ball. Starting McGuffie over a one armed Minor wasn't the wrong choice. The others you listed, on the other hand......


February 15th, 2011 at 1:28 PM ^

Minor was healthy enough to average 7.2 yards a carry over the first four games and score a couple touchdowns. 

I specifically remember Minor being asked why he wasn't playing more and his response was disgustedly saying (and I paraphrase), "I don't know, man.  You'll have to ask the coaches."

And I might have learned to let this go after three years, except the problem showed up once again when Vincent Smith earned playing time over everyone else on the roster, despite being nondescript in most ways.


February 15th, 2011 at 7:30 PM ^

All I know is that when Bo, Mo, and Carr were in charge, I used to frequently think "Wow, that guy is good" in reference to a Michigan running back.  There was always a guy who would outrun a bunch of people (Wheatley) or run through some tackles (Hoard, Anthony Thomas, Hart) or dance around someone with his quick feet (Biakabutuka).

And for the last few years, the only guy to give me that same feeling (aside from Denard, who's not a RB) was Minor.  Dude was fast and broke a ton of tackles.  It's too bad that he got hurt a lot, and that's nobody's fault. 

But with all the runners Rodriguez tried over the last few years, I never got that same feeling from McGuffie, Brown, Smith, Shaw, Hopkins, etc.  A few of those guys still have potential, but RB has been an underwhelming group since Rodriguez arrived in 2008.


February 15th, 2011 at 11:24 AM ^

Does The Impaler have inside information?  I'm not being snarky ... just curious.


That he gained a bunch of weight is obviously a bad sign, but maybe he's just following a "Jerry Hughes" trajectory.  He's a guy that TCU recruited as a running back.  He went from about 215 (at 6'2") to 255 and became an NFL prospect at rush end.

Probably too optimistic, I know ...

Duval Wolverine

February 15th, 2011 at 11:27 AM ^

A friend of mine that I went to high school with Tony Hargrove who now plays for the N.O. Saints was a free safety in high school, moved to linebacker at Georgia Tech and now is a defensive end and has put on 60 lbs since high school.


February 15th, 2011 at 11:33 AM ^

I worked for the btn at the practice in the fall. He looked out of shape and was running extra after practice with Greg R. I hope he can find a spot to play and help michigan win. no matter what I hope he gets his degree. 

Hopefully the new coaching staff can light a fire in him. if not, then he might be one of the kids after spring ball looking at different schools. good luck to Bell. Go Blue!


February 15th, 2011 at 11:50 AM ^

I believe Alan Branch was a kick returner in high school so just because the guy had "great high school speed/agility" doesn't automatically make him that kind of athlete in college.  Personally I'm pretty disappointed that he has been invisible so far in his career because I was excited about him as a linebacker prospect.  Hopefully this staff can get something out of him. 


February 15th, 2011 at 11:59 AM ^

I realize the SEC comments are due to oversigning and being shady, and you should honor scholarships for kids that are recruited, but if a kid shows no heart or sign of wanting to do what the team needs, it's not right to let them keep that scholarship.  It should be a 2-way commitment.  If you work hard and do what the coaches ask you to do, and you just don't crack the depth chart because at the end of the day someone with more talent, size, or athleticism is better, then you should still get your scholarship.  But if your disagreement with coaches leads you to become a slug who just goes through the motions but clearly has no regard for the team, you should be cut from the team and lose your scholarship.  That's simply cancerous.


February 15th, 2011 at 12:59 PM ^

At this point eat away and become a DT.  We need DT's and if he is still has any speed left he could be elite (sarcasm intended).  What is another 30 pounds at this point anyway.



February 15th, 2011 at 3:39 PM ^

I have a feeling the new staff will do a little sink or swim with Bell. If he makes it to the spring game I would be willing to bet he has at least 30 pounds of that weight off of him.


February 16th, 2011 at 12:17 AM ^

Honestly I'm not sure where the 260lb number came from, I've seen him around campus a few times this semester and he looks like he is 230lbs tops. I would guess that he is a linebacker at this point but he looks like he could fit at strong safety especially in run stopping situations.


April 1st, 2011 at 10:49 AM ^

 I sit next to Isaiah in our English class he seems happy and i have heard him and Darrly Stonum talk about spring ball joking around about how he is getting more reps now. I can also say he do not look like he weighs 260