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2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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12 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW M Good things come to those who wait, the old cliché goes, and a year after missing out on class of 2013 five-star tailback Ty Isaac, Michigan has landed the Shorewood, Ill., native after he decided to transfer from Southern Cal following his freshman year. Isaac cited a desire to be closer to his family; his mother suffers from an ear con- dition that prevents her from flying. Though Northwestern, Notre Dame and Ohio State were hoping to attract Isaac, he visited only two schools — Illinois May 29 and U-M June 2-3. "I had a good visit to Michigan, and it's just the place where I feel the most comfort- able," he told "I didn't want to drag all of this out and see a ton of schools. Michigan was in my final three when I com- mitted to USC, and the reasons I liked Mich- igan are still very much in place. "I just always felt that Michigan was one of the schools I wanted to look into once all of this started happening. They have all of the same coaches except one since I was recruited by them. They have a great staff, a great tradition, and I also feel like I will be a good fit. The offense is a good system for me, and I feel that I can come in and compete right away." The Wolverines were considered a front- runner for Isaac during his initial recruit- ment. The five-star tailback, ranked the No. 4 ball carrier and the No. 27 player in the country in 2013, had a final three of USC, Michigan and Notre Dame (in that order) and chose the Trojans on May 15, 2012. Three-star De'Veon Smith had commit- ted to U-M two months earlier, and with Isaac off Michigan's board, and the Maize and Blue still very much in need of a sec- ond ball carrier, they set their sights on the nation's No. 1 tailback, Derrick Green. The five-star, ranked No. 8 overall, committed on Jan. 26, 2013. Green and Smith eventually supplanted fifth-year senior Fitz Toussaint as U-M's primary rushers last sea- son, combining for 387 yards and two scores on 109 carries (3.6 yards per touch). However, neither proved they were the next great Wolverine back. They will receive that opportunity this fall, competing with redshirt junior Justice Hayes and redshirt sophomore Drake Johnson, and po- tentially Isaac, who has petitioned the NCAA to receive a hardship waiver that would make him eligible to play right away instead of sitting out a sea- son like all transfers are supposed to. "I don't think we can say for sure what they're going to do. The NCAA has a rule that the college has to be within 100 miles [of his family home], but they have been so flexible on some things and stricter on others that you have no idea what they're going to decide," said Grant Mason, who transferred from Stanford to Michigan in 2003, sat out the year, and then played two more. "I'm sure if he can make a convincing case that Michigan is the best place for him, maybe he has some family in the area, and can show something then hopefully the NCAA will be more understanding. This is a kid's life, his future, and being in a comfortable situation where he is in the best place to have suc- cess academically and athletically should be the No. 1 priority." If the NCAA approved the hardship waiver, the 6-3, 225-pound Isaac would enter a backfield competition that is wide open, and he would likely stand a good chance to win it because of his size, strength, speed, and abil- ity to catch the ball out of the backfield, which is an absolute must in Doug Nussmeier's offense. If Isaac does not receive the waiver, he would be forced to sit out this season and would be eligible in 2015. With Isaac in the fold, Michigan now sports a roster with two five-star tailbacks for the first time since Anthony Thomas and Justin Fargas played alongside each other from 1998-2000. He is also the first transfer into the program since quarterback Steven Threet in 2007. Ironically, Fargas transferred to USC, and 14 years later a Trojan is transferring to Michigan. "He's a big kid, and the running backs today that are in that elite category tend to be taller, more upright running backs that are big, physical guys with soft hands," national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "When we were ranking him we saw not only the ability to be a good running back, but a guy that can get out in space, has good feet and shows the ability to catch the ball. He's a three-down back. "When he committed to USC, I was sur - prised because I didn't see him as a kid that would leave home. Michigan seemed like a much better fit so it doesn't surprise me that he's coming back. "I like the combination of Ty Isaac and Derrick Green, who is not a short guy but he's shorter than Isaac. He's a power back. Michigan wants to be smash mouth foot- ball, and they now have two guys that can wear people down in the Big Ten." MICHIGAN LANDS USC TRANSFER TY ISAAC Isaac, who was rated a five-star prospect and the No. 27 player in the country by in 2013, carried the ball 40 times for 236 yards and two scores for USC last season. PHOTO COURTESY USCFOOTBALL.COM Michigan's Top 100 Tailbacks 1996-2014 Class Tailback Natl. Rank 2013 Derrick Green No. 8 1998 Justin Fargas No. 9 1997 Anthony Thomas No. 13 2001 Kelly Baraka No. 19 2005 Kevin Grady No. 22 2013 Ty Isaac No. 27 2006 Carlos Brown No. 39 1997 Patrick McCall No. 55 1999 Charles Drake No. 67 2001 David Underwood No. 69 2011 Justice Hayes No. 85 Top 100 recruiting lists became mainstream in 1996 8,10-12,14-28,30-32.IMA.indd 12 6/19/14 4:58 PM

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