Weight: 240 lbs.
High school: Joliet (IL) Catholic
Position: Running back
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #32
Last year: I ranked Isaac #19 and said he would redshirt. He redshirted.
Isaac committed to USC in the class of 2013 and spent his freshman season as a backup for the Trojans. He ran 40 times for 236 yards (5.9 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns, and he caught 4 passes for 57 yards (14.3 yards/catch). As a recruit he was considered to be a kid who wanted to stay close to home, so it was a surprise that he chose USC in the first place. When he decided to transfer, it was unclear if it was the depth chart or a health issue with his mother (or a combination of the two) that brought him back to the midwest. He applied for a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately, and when I ranked him #19 last year, he was in limbo about whether he would be granted the waiver or not. His request was not granted, so he redshirted like most transfers do.
Fast forward a year, and he is probably not in the situation he expected. Brady Hoke was fired after the end of Isaac's redshirt year, and Hoke really recruited him hard out of high school. That was a coaching staff that loved his potential. Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh and company were mostly coaching in the NFL, and they probably did not have a clue who he was when he was churning out yards in Joliet, Illinois. This spring Isaac was dealing with multiple injuries (he had a cast on his wrist and battled a pulled hamstring), limiting him to just one carry in the spring game before tweaking the hamstring. Since then there have been transfer rumors and questions about Isaac's toughness.
I think Isaac is the most talented running back on the team. I was fairly high on Derrick Green coming of high school in 2013, but I would have ranked Isaac higher. He can do almost anything you want out of a running back - run between the tackles, run outside, run through tackles, make people miss, outrun some people, and catch the ball out of the backfield. The thing that has always been a question about him - and this goes back to his high school days - is his mental toughness, and that is a difficult thing to discern from watching him on film.
I have few doubts that Isaac is talented enough to succeed at this level, but he plays for a coach that demands toughness. So how far does talent take you on this Michigan squad? I have a feeling that De'Veon Smith will be the starter to begin the year because - let's face it - his best attribute is his toughness. Smith isn't going to outrun anyone or juke anybody in the hole, but he will churn his legs until he can't anymore. I think Isaac is a tough guy to keep off the field because he can create more on his own, he can break bigger plays, and he can catch the ball. Some analysts thought he could even play wide receiver in college. And despite questions about his mental fortitude, he does run with good body lean and gain some tough yards. I just don't know if his raw talent will be enough to convince Harbaugh to trust him as the bell cow.
Prediction: Backup running back; 120 carries, 600 yards, 7 touchdowns