Whenever a program can add a five-star skill position player, that is obviously a big deal. So Michigan’s addition of former USC running back Ty Isaac, while it may be a year later than they would have liked or expected, is very significant. But in the big picture of the program, this addition is greater than the player himself.
Whether Michigan fans want to admit it or not, Brady Hoke’s program was in a bit of a funk recently.
The 2013 season was far from a success for Michigan. They came in with aspirations to get a shot at a Big Ten title in Indianapolis and ended the season ahead of only Northwestern in the Legends Division. The Wolverines underwhelmed, showing weakness and inexperience on the interior, offensively and defensively. Devin Gardner, while statistically very impressive, couldn’t quite take that next step to being a star and Michigan failed to have much punch in general. Maybe it wasn’t fair to set such high expectations for a young team, but the Wolverines were not even close to meeting them.
Michigan’s tepid play cooled down the red hot success that Hoke had going with the program, particularly on the recruiting trail. Hoke brought in the 7th best recruiting class in the country in 2012 and 5th best in 2013, according to Rivals. The 2014 class had the opportunity to be the best one yet, with Michigan in hot pursuit of three of the top four Rivals prospects: Da’Shawn Hand, Leonard Fournette and Jabrill Peppers. They got the commitment from Peppers early on, and looked like they could really land Hand, the top recruit. But Hand chose Alabama and Fournette cooled on Michigan, leaving Michigan fans disappointed and with just the 31st rated class on Rivals. Peppers likely will be a stud in Ann Arbor, but the 2014 class will be remembered as one that got away.
Hoke had a chance to add a some blue chip recruits in the 2015 class and did by getting commitments from five star running back Damien Harris and five star receiver George Campbell last summer. But both of those commitments were short lived, as they both de-committed in the winter, compounding the dirty taste Michigan had in its mouth from the 2014 class disappointment and a 7-6 2013 season.
While this portrayal of the last several months for Michigan football may seem all doom and gloom, that would be an overly dramatic perspective. In reality, Hoke’s program fell from the clouds, but by no means crashed into earth. They were coasting through the summer, picking up a some decent 2015 recruits, when the Isaac news broke, putting air under Michigan’s figurative parachute.
Isaac is a physical beast, measuring in at 6 foot 3 and 235 pounds. When you add that to a backfield that already includes (the now lighter) 220 pounder Derrick Green, that’s a lot of potential power to be charging out of one backfield. If Isaac can gain eligibility for 2014, that’s potentially a huge short term gain for Michigan and a long term gain either way.
But Isaac can also be more than just an on-the-field boost. Hoke adding Isaac also signifies a shift from a period of frustration to potentially better days. College football recruiting is all about momentum and Isaac joining Michigan should give them plenty of it. He’s as high caliber of a player as Fournette or Harris, but Isaac’s addition is like found money. Michigan missed out on him once, and there usually isn’t a second shot at college football players. But Hoke got a second shot at Isaac and hit his target. Now, can Hoke translate this success to the 2015 recruiting class and the rapidly approaching 2014 season?
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