2017 Season Countdown: #40 Ty Isaac

2017 Season Countdown: #40 Ty Isaac


July 24, 2017

Ty Isaac (image via Zimbio)

Name: Ty Isaac
Height:
 6’3″
Weight: 230 lbs.
High school: Chicago (IL) Joliet
Position: Running back
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #32
Last year: I ranked Isaac #34 and said he would be a backup running back with 60 carries for 300 yards and 3 TDs. He ran 74 times for 417 yards (5.6 yards/carry) and 5 TDs; he also caught 2 passes for 42 yards.
TTB Rating: N/A

Coming off a 2015 season where he averaged 6.8 yards/carry and broke off a 76-yard touchdown run, I thought Isaac should take a step forward on the depth chart. But that doesn’t mean I thought it would happen. The coaching staff did not appear to be as enamored with Isaac as I am, and while he did get more attempts, he was still not relied upon heavily in crunch time. Despite averaging 5.6 yards/carry, he had just 11 carries in the final six games – including the bowl game, in which he did not play for an undisclosed reason. Meanwhile, Karan Higdon had 29 carries for 66 yards over that same stretch, which is a little more than 2 yards/carry. Isaac’s yards per carry in that time? He ran for 85 yards, almost 8 yards/carry.

So. I know nothing. It doesn’t make sense unless former running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley and/or other guys on the coaching staff didn’t like Isaac, for whatever reason. I’m a numbers guy, and the numbers don’t support the playing time decisions.

It happened again in the spring game, to a lesser extent. Isaac (5 carries, 47 yards, 9.4 yards/carry, 1 TD) got fewer carries than Higdon (12 carries, 81 yards, 6.8 yards/carry, 2 TDs). I’ve learned over the years not to put too much stock in running back carries in the spring game (look out for Wyatt Shallman, everyone!), but I have resigned myself to the idea that Isaac is a backup. The coaches have their eyes on Chris Evans – who admittedly seems to be a more productive back – and Higdon, and they might even see Kareem Walker as a guy worth getting more carries. Wheatley has departed for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and in his place is former tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh, so a fresh start may be a good thing. I like Isaac and think he might be very underutilized, but there’s nothing I can do about it from my computer.

Prediction: Backup running back; 70 carries, 400 yards, 4 TDs

57 comments

  1. Comments: 762
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Jul 24, 2017 at 6:52 AM

    This should be fun!

    • Comments: 2275
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 24, 2017 at 8:30 AM

      I’m setting the over/under at 750 comments. At least 500 by Lanknows, 230 by me, and then 20 by others.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3611
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 25, 2017 at 2:14 PM

        We better kick it up a notch. Running well below these numbers.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3611
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 25, 2017 at 2:14 PM

          Except for “others” — they’re doing well.

  2. DonAZ
    Comments: 350
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    DonAZ
    Jul 24, 2017 at 7:06 AM

    My vague memory recalls a few fumbles at inopportune times … am I recalling that correctly? Could it be the “risk / reward” profile doesn’t favor Isaac?

    • Comments: 762
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Jul 24, 2017 at 8:00 AM

      Maryland-2015, I believe. After that, he never regained trust

    • Comments: 2275
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 24, 2017 at 8:31 AM

      He fumbled twice against Maryland in 2015. Otherwise, he has not fumbled.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3611
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 24, 2017 at 4:34 PM

        Hard to fumble if you don’t play.

  3. GKblue
    Comments: 235
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    GKblue
    Jul 24, 2017 at 7:38 AM

    Well before Isaac decided to go west many were high on his vids and lofty ranking. From those it is hard to show heart.

    After a couple of years here what I see is a guy who really doesn’t have a running style that takes advantage of his size. Maybe in practice he dogs it when blocking or in pass pro, maybe those couple of fumbles caused his coaches to lose confidence. Something sure seemed to prevent them from calling his number. I wanted to see him show toughness, put a hat on someone, not head for the sideline. Willing to bust his nut through the tackles against top competition if given the chance.

    If he has aspirations to play on Sunday this is his year to show up. I think we’re all pulling for him to do just that.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3611
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 24, 2017 at 9:47 AM

      Isaac making a leap to an NFL-caliber player is the best case scenario. The second best scenario is him somehow returning for a 6th year so that Thunder can overrate him again.

      • Comments: 682
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Jul 24, 2017 at 4:15 PM

        Very much a best case scenario. At first pass, he seems like the kind of guy who should find a spot in the NFL (excellent size, decent speed, good college pedigree), but he doesn’t get tough yards between the tackles or after contact, and his pass-catching and pass-blocking are nothing notable. All of which make him an unlikely NFL prospect. Someone may still take a look at him as an UFA, but I’d be surprised if he stuck.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3611
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 24, 2017 at 4:34 PM

          I agree with most of that, but don’t know what “good college pedigree” means. His football speed is nothing special. Everything with Isaac has the qualifier “for his size”. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to use his size to his advantage.

          I think Isaac’s best bet in the NFL would be an H-back/FB role – but he’d really have to embrace blocking and do it right away. That seems not likely.

          • Comments: 682
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Jul 24, 2017 at 8:18 PM

            It means that he’s at least had high level coaching, conditioning and competition. If a guy with his measurables were gaining 400 yards a year with McNeese St., no one would give him a second look.

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 3611
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jul 24, 2017 at 10:13 AM

    The surprising thing here is Thunder self-describing as a “numbers guy”. When I think of “numbers guys” I think of people who would not unabashedly draw conclusions from tiny sample sizes and ignore relevant data like context. For End Zone readers: Hunter Lochmann’s take on the attendance data is a notable comp.

    We’ve run through this many times – starting RBs who do the hard stuff are rarely going to have better YPC than guys who get most of their carries in non-competitive situations.

    Miles Sanders averaged nearly 2 YPC more than Saqueon Barkley last year. No sane person thinks Sanders is better or should take carries from Barkley, least of all “numbers guys”. Briante Dunn averaged the exact same YPC as Ezekiel Elliot in 2015. The examples are endless.

    YPC doesn’t tell the full story of RB, but even if it did Isaac has never produced impressive YPC in meaningful situations. We looked at these numbers last year. Isaac’s YPC in competitive situations was not impressive – indistinguishable from the other replacement-level backs that litter the M depth chart.

    A numbers guy would see that the numbers don’t support changing the playing time decisions.

    • Comments: 2275
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 24, 2017 at 3:34 PM

      Context is absolutely important, but you continue to misinterpret what I’m saying about Isaac (and other backs in the past).

      You’ll notice that I haven’t pegged Isaac as the starter either of the past two seasons. So I get it, when you’re talking about, say, De’Veon Smith vs. Ty Isaac. The bigger issue is this:

      Why not give Isaac MORE reps than he’s getting?

      In my opinion, if a guy does well in low-pressure situations, then you should give him a shot in higher pressure situations. That was even my point going back to Michael Cox about eight years ago. If the dude is averaging 9 yards/carry in garbage time, then maybe he can average 5.5 yards/carry against the starters.

      Turning attention back to Isaac, he put up decent numbers. He always has, overall. So you’ve got a guy who’s clearly struggling (Higdon with his 2.2 YPC over the final six games). How much worse could Isaac be? And could he be better? Higdon wasn’t getting it done, so try someone else. I’m not going to send anyone out there getting 2.2 YPC and be satisfied with that performance. Whether it’s Kingston Davis or Ty Isaac or Chris Evans or Khalid Hill or Tru Wilson, I’m giving someone else a shot.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3611
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 24, 2017 at 4:46 PM

        Because practice tells you more than a tiny sample of carries from various situations in games.

        Higdon struggled in the last few games because he got more carries when the defenses got better. He ran 13 for 108 against Rutgers and 8 for 106 against Illinois. In both those games he was better than Isaac. If you want to read into that you can conclude the coaches did exactly what you’re asking for.

        You want them to trust Isaac in meaningful downs because he busted a 50 yard run against Maryland in 2016? Then you’re expecting them to forget his fumbles against Maryland in 2015.

        Against Indiana Isaac got 5 carries. He got 6 yards. You want to parse out YPC in that spot compare to Higdon getting 2 yards in 4 carries you can, but the real takeaway is that neither guy is making an impact or creating a bunch of yards for themselves. So you choose the one that is younger, hasn’t fumbled multiple times, and doesn’t come with off-field baggage.

        Isaac has gotten chance after chance. He’s just not as good as you think he is. The stats don’t say otherwise.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3611
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 24, 2017 at 4:46 PM

        Isaac could be a lot worse than Higdon – see Maryland 2015.

    • Comments: 2275
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 24, 2017 at 3:51 PM

      I don’t often tell personal football stories, but I’ll indulge here for some context:

      At one point in the past, I was not the RB coach so I had to sit by and watch someone else on our staff (the RB coach and head coach) decide to play a senior at tailback. He averaged 2.2 YPC. His backup, a junior, was “too small” but averaged 5.6 YPC. Fast forward a year, the backup transferred to a rival school, added maybe 5 lbs., and averaged 5.5 YPC as a starter.

      Now, would that guy have averaged 5.6 YPC for us as a starter in his junior year? Maybe not. But he sure as hell would have averaged more than 2.2, so why not give him a shot? If nothing else, it would have served as a reminder to the senior RB and other guys on the team that they have to compete for their jobs.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3611
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 24, 2017 at 4:50 PM

        The idea that Isaac hasn’t gotten a shot is ludicrous. He averaged over 10 carries per game in game 3-7. He got passed over by Evans and Higdon because he’s not as good.*

        *Or in Higdon’s case, maybe just not any better.

        • Comments: 2275
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Jul 25, 2017 at 8:09 AM

          ….and he ran 51 times for 274 yards (5.4 YPC). He was playing well. Yet starting a week later, he barely saw the field.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3611
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 25, 2017 at 12:25 PM

          I think you’re drawing a whole lot of conclusions based on essentially one play – the 53 yard run against Maryland. Take that one carry out and all these points are invalid.

          That play happened in the 4th quarter of a blowout (45-3 at the time). Isaac was virtually untouched and ran through a gaping hole. He made a nice cut past a backup DB and that was it till getting pushed out of bounds.

          You are making this the centerpiece of your argument that the coaching staff are wrong. But they’ve seen him in practice for 3 years and in person or on film (not just highlights) for many more. They have a lot more information than overall YPC.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3611
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 25, 2017 at 12:40 PM

            Here is the run. See for yourself.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8JscWz0Bio

            • Comments: 2275
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Jul 25, 2017 at 12:56 PM

              I look forward to them showing this play at his HOF induction.

          • Comments: 2275
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Jul 25, 2017 at 1:05 PM

            After your lecture on being a numbers guy yesterday, why exactly are we removing a 53-yard run from one guy’s resume? That seems logically unsound.

            But okay okay, I’ll play along with your very selective and unfair statistical comparison. Isaac had 11 carries for 85 yards in that span, so take away 1 carry and 53 yards, and he’s left with 10 carries for 32 yards – also known as 3.2 YPC. Which is still higher than Higdon’s 2.2 YPC average over that stretch.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 3611
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Jul 25, 2017 at 2:02 PM

              Here’s some information that can be useful to you if you want to become a numbers guy.

              http://www.statisticslectures.com/topics/outliereffects/

              • Comments: 2275
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Jul 25, 2017 at 2:11 PM

                But there are outliers a) on both ends and b) for both players. However, you only removed one outlier for one guy. And as I said, even when you remove Isaac’s outlier, his numbers over that stretch are better than Higdon’s.

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 3611
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Jul 25, 2017 at 2:19 PM

                It depends which segments you’re counting. Higdon didn’t have any outliers after Illinois. And he had 3 games in a row with 40+ yard carries in the middle of the season.

  5. Lanknows
    Comments: 3611
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jul 24, 2017 at 10:17 AM

    I consider myself a Ty Isaac optimist. I think he’s going to hold on to the 3rd string RB spot this year and have his best year yet! The rushing yard production might not go up much but I haven’t let go hopes that he can be a bigger threat as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3611
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 24, 2017 at 10:17 AM

      Still overrated at 40 tho.

  6. JC
    Comments: 148
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    JC
    Jul 24, 2017 at 10:21 AM

    RB is an interesting position group to rank this year. Evans appears to be the guy. He’s added some muscle and should hold up for a few more carries than last year, but he will need to be spelled. There is a stable of running backs behind him, and in my opinion, you could make an argument for all three to be the #2 back, so where should they fall?

    I liked the spot for your #4, and I like the spot for your #3. Maybe he’ll become the workhorse this year and split carries evenly with Evans. Who knows? I certainly don’t. But what I do know, is I am incredibly excited for football to start back up again.

  7. Comments: 762
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Jul 24, 2017 at 11:08 AM

    Man, who turned on the downvotes?

  8. Comments: 9
    Joined: 9/19/2016
    newtopos
    Jul 24, 2017 at 2:35 PM

    I admit that I don’t know whether Higdon or Isaac should be getting more snaps, but the YPC numbers are somewhat deceiving. During the last six games both played (Rutgers through Indiana), Isaac averaged 6.6 ypc and Higdon 6.3. That’s not a very meaningful difference, given the smaller sample size and the different points at which each played in the games. On the other hand, the OP is including games against Ohio State and Florida State (games in which Isaac didn’t play) to show Higdon having a lower ypc during the final six weeks of the season. One would expect most running backs to have a lower ypc in games against Florida State versus games against Maryland.

    • JC
      Comments: 148
      Joined: 8/17/2015
      JC
      Jul 24, 2017 at 3:21 PM

      YPC are deceiving. Thunder likes Isaac.

      The 76 yarder he broke off in 2015 was against UNLV. Outside of UNLV, second longest run Isaac had in 2015 was for 12 yards against Oregon State. Higdon had 3 runs of 40 or more yards in 2016. Penn State, Rutgers, and Illinois. Isaac had a 53 yard run in 2016 against Maryland (only other carry that game was for 3 yards), a 34 yarder against Rutgers, and a 25 yarder against Penn State.

      Citing single runs or single games can be used to sway any discussion. If we look at Indiana, Isaac had 5 carries for 6 yards, Higdon had 4 carries for 2 yards. Neither had impressive stats.

      In important games, Higdon and Isaac were not visible. In unimportant games they were. Examples below.
      Won Big
      Penn State – Smith had 12 carries (8.9 ypc), Higdon+Isaac had 20 (7.8 ypc)
      Rutgers – Smith had 5 carries (2.2 ypc), Higdon+Isaac had 25 (8.3 ypc)

      Close Games
      Wisconsin – Smith had 17 carries (3.9 ypc), Higdon+Isaac had 8 (6.0 ypc)
      Iowa – Smith had 12 carries (2.8 ypc), Higdon+Isaac had 4 (1.0 ypc)
      Indiana – Smith had 23 carries (6.9 ypc), Higdon+Isaac had 9 (0.9 ypc)
      OSU* – Smith had 21 carries (2.9 ypc), Higdon had 3 (1.7 ypc)
      FSU* – Smith had 16 carries (2.3 ypc), Higdon had 4 (0.8 ypc)

      *Isaac had no stats.

      Maybe the staff will give Isaac more carries. Maybe as a RS senior he’ll start becoming more involved in the offense. But together, Higdon nor Isaac were very visible in 2016 in close games. I heard a rumor that Higdon was sick for a while in camp and dropped some weight because of it, or something to that effect, so his body wasn’t fully prepared for the season. For these are the reasons I think Higdon and Walker will have more of an impact in 2017 than Isaac, but I would be happy to be pleasantly surprised.

    • Comments: 2275
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 24, 2017 at 3:39 PM

      It’s a small sample size, but Isaac was better. So why the almost 3:1 ratio of attempts for Higdon? At worst you would expect to split carries roughly down the middle. With 40 carries to give, each guy should probably be getting 20 or so.

      And his not playing against Ohio State and Florida State is exactly my point. I wish Isaac would have played against those teams. Not only would we have a more definitive answer to this question, but it’s also one more bullet in the chamber. Supposedly, Isaac was getting first team reps during the week leading up to Ohio State, and then he didn’t get a carry in the game. I’ve heard that from multiple sources. It just doesn’t make any sense why you would give a guy first team reps and then not play him at all, while another guy who’s struggling gets to play.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3611
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 24, 2017 at 5:07 PM

        YPC doesn’t tell the whole story but for whatever it’s worth – Higdon had a higher YPC than Isaac on the year. The idea that there are mysterious reasons for Isaac being held back despite better production are just not in line with reality. At best, their performance as runners is a draw.

        If you want to slice and dice situational data I would suggest digging into the data here:

        http://www.cfbstats.com/2016/player/418/1057271/rushing/situational.html

        http://www.cfbstats.com/2016/player/418/1071502/rushing/situational.html

        http://www.cfbstats.com/2016/player/418/1057271/rushing/situational.html

        • Comments: 2275
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Jul 25, 2017 at 7:50 AM

          Yeah, we’ve gone through these before.

          When Michigan’s not up by 15 points, Higdon ran 28 times for 65 yards (2.3 YPC). He makes hay when you’re up big (8.18 YPC).
          Meanwhile, Ty Isaac ran 35 times for 139 yards (4.0 YPC). He makes less hay when Michigan’s up big (7.13 YPC).

          As addressed elsewhere in this discussion, if my guy is getting 2.2 or 2.3 YPC in certain situations or for a lengthy stretch of time, I’m going to look to see if anyone else might be able to give us some juice.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3611
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 25, 2017 at 12:37 PM

          Now you’re arguing both sides.

          Do the guys who “play well” in meaningless situations deserve more snaps? If so — your guy should have been Higdon by the Illinois game. Certainly so after MSU when he proved to be both durable and productive in a vaguely competitive situation.

          Do the guys who are “not getting it done” in the meaningful situations deserve to go to the bench? If so, that’s Isaac after he averaged less than 3 YPC in competitive situations in 2015 (on top of fumbling twice in one game). That’s Isaac after he ran 5 times for 6 yards against Indiana. Evans and Smith were far better runners that game. Higdon was equally unproductive in his 4 carries.

          Higdon and Isaac’s rushing numbers in aggregate are indistinguishable. We can chop them up into situations or games and draw conclusions, but they’ll all be statistically insignificant and overly influenced by outliers, context, etc.

          Neither is a standout runner. The stats say that very definitively. Higdon is 2 years younger and a high character dude. Isaac will get his shot, again, but the idea that Isaac has earned more than he’s gotten in the past isn’t worthy of serious debate.

          • Comments: 2275
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Jul 25, 2017 at 12:58 PM

            I’m not arguing both sides. In the second half of the season, Higdon’s production stunk. Meanwhile, you’ve got another guy who was doing well/better, so give him a shot. Both guys played well early in the year against PSU, Illinois, etc. The second half of the season is the question mark.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 3611
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Jul 25, 2017 at 2:13 PM

              The second half of the season was when things got hard. Up to that point Higdon was better than Isaac. Your argument that it wasn’t is factually incorrect.

              Higdon earned more carries in the easy times, as you’ve argued for. Things slowed down when things got harder. Reaction: give Isaac carries, which he got against Indiana (one more than Higdon) and did nothing with.

              You got exactly what you wanted, you just want to give Isaac another chance and another and another. Why? It goes back to preconceptions I think and all the incredibly high preseason ranks you’ve given to Isaac since before he arrived on campus.

              Yes, in hindsight Higdon didn’t do much when the situations got tough. That’s what normally happens to most backs, especially unexceptional ones. Theres no reason to think Isaac would have done differently.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3611
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 24, 2017 at 5:09 PM

        Isaac got 3:1 carries to Higdon in 2015. Higdon passed him in 2016 – based on merit.

      • Comments: 9
        Joined: 9/19/2016
        newtopos
        Jul 24, 2017 at 5:57 PM

        On the season, they did have nearly equal carries (74 v. 72) and yards (417 v. 425). During the last five games of the year, neither one had more than 5 carries in a game. At that point, ratios are rather meaningless (e.g., he had three times the carries (because the other guy had one)). Neither one really made an impact; neither one appeared to be a game changer or true difference maker. It appears to my untrained eye that Isaac’s running style would seem to make him a less optimal choice on certain plays (e.g., I don’t expect Isaac to shiftily pick up a few yards running up the gut). On the other hand, he might have a slightly better ability to break free on the plays that create space on the outside — he seems to pick up speed well, more as a one-cut-and-go guy.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3611
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 24, 2017 at 4:53 PM

      Yes!

      I swear I didn’t create another account to post htis.

  9. Comments: 539
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    michymich
    Jul 24, 2017 at 5:45 PM

    If Isaac were smart he would have transitioned over to fb/hb. The era of DeVeon Smith and the slow plodding tailback has passed. If Hoke were the coach then I could see Isaac up in the top 20 players but thank goodness we are in the Harbaugh era who only cares about guys who can move the chains in any manner.

    By the way Higdon is going to really breakout. I liked him a couple of years ago but was raw but guy is going to be a great compliment to Evans. I see both of these guys getting close to 1000 yards EACH this year running the ball.

    Mark it down.

    • Comments: 2275
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 25, 2017 at 8:02 AM

      I very strongly doubt that both of those guys are going to come close to getting 1,000 yards.

    • JC
      Comments: 148
      Joined: 8/17/2015
      JC
      Jul 25, 2017 at 8:19 AM

      A lot of factors go into it. I don’t see 2 1,000 yard backs this year. Too many questions on the OL, and too many running backs in the stable.

      We did see a HUGE step forward in rushing yards from 2015 to 2016, averaging about 50 yards more a game.

      In 2015, our top 4 running backs had 753, 271, 205, and 184 (Houma yards. In 2016 our top 4 running backs had 846, 614, 425, and 417 yards. Those 400 yard backs were not involved when the games were very close. If those games were close, maybe Evans and Smith would be getting the ball a bit more to rack up 1,000 yards each. Or maybe they’d air it out more. Or maybe this year Evans and Higdon will be the next Bush/White or McFadden/Jones and each break 1,000 yards. But that doesn’t happen very often.

      With competent OL play I could see Evans breaking the 1,000 yard mark by a pinch. I could see whoever the second most productive back may be approaching 700 yards. But there are three backs behind Evans who will be splitting carries.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3611
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 25, 2017 at 12:52 PM

        The rush offense went from 61 to 49 (per S&P). Small progress.

        The production increase can be explained mostly by the defense dominating opponents, creating a lot of blowout situations where rush yards were racked up.

        I wouldn’t be so sure that the 3 guys behind Evans will split carries evenly. One of those guys has been banished to the bench each of the last 2 seasons and there are 2 freshman on the way that make it hard to even predict who that group of 3 would include.

        It would not be at all surprising if Higdon got a lot more carries than anyone else as he’s the closest thing to a between-the-tackles runner we have to replace Smith.

        • JC
          Comments: 148
          Joined: 8/17/2015
          JC
          Jul 25, 2017 at 2:46 PM

          Your logic is flawed.

          The production increase can be explained from the defense dominating opponents.

          The Michigan defense went from 3 in 2015 to 2 in 2016 (per S&P). The Michigan defense has been dominating opponents.

          We went from 158 yards/game at 4.2 yards/carry to 213 yards/game at 4.9 yards/carry. That’s significant improvement. 17% extra yards per carry is significant improvement.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3611
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 25, 2017 at 6:32 PM

            Fair point – I agree the D was dominant in 2015 too. But there more early blowouts in 2016 than 2015. Those situations tend to make it both easier and more likely that you’ll run a lot. That’s why S&P isn’t reflecting the big increases that your simpler stats point to.

            When I think of games like Maryland (which was 6-0 at the half in 2015 and 35-0 in 2016) and and PSU (14-10 at the half in 2015 and 28-0 in 2016). Plus we played a much tougher non-conference game in 2015 (Utah). 2016 was easier.

            But to your point. Some of that credit for the blowouts probably should go to the offense itself, not just the D. I don’t think you can give it all to the O given the schedule.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3611
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 25, 2017 at 12:46 PM

      The OL is very likely to be worse. Consider:

      Pat Kugler is the same guy who sat behind Braden, Kalis, and a true freshman who spent most of camp working at OT. He wasn’t pushing any of them. They also move Cole to OC and rather than insert Kugler in the lineup and move Cole back they chose to play JBB. When that failed they inserted Bredeson at OG and moved Braden to OT (where he wasn’t as good). Kugler could make a senior year leap, but he’s probably not going to be any better than Braden or Kalis were.

      This guy is probably the 3rd best player on the OL.

  10. Comments: 682
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Jul 24, 2017 at 6:02 PM

    Not particularly optimistic or pessimistic about Isaac this year. I think he’ll be pretty much the same guy as last year, but that his production will drop off a bit, due to an unimproved Oline, Evans taking up more yards, fewer opportunities because our defense won’t be as good, and less garbage time. He’ll likely sit at fourth on the depth chart.

    Is he overranked at 40th? Well, if we had no significant injuries at RB, we could probably get through a successful season without using him at all. But at RB, that’s a bigger “if” than at most spots, so your third and fourth guys have a not tiny chance of being needed and valuable at some point.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3611
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 24, 2017 at 6:57 PM

      The 3rd RB being ‘needed’ at some point is very very likely. That guy will play, for sure.

      The 3rd RB being ‘valuable’ is less clear and probably doubtful. If that’s Isaac, he has demonstrated he’s a player that would be easy to replace. If Isaac goes down and his snaps go to Walker, Samuels, or Taylor — or more likely in meaningful downs more snaps to Evans/Higdon — does Michigan’s season change in any measurable way? I doubt it. The only RBs Isaac has clearly outplayed in college are Wyatt Shallma, RossTaylor-Douglass, and Kingston Davis. There’s a good chance one of our 3 freshman will be better than Isaac.

      Meanwhile, guys like Thomas, St.Juste, and JBB might not play at all…or they’ll start games, play in game-deciding situations and may greatly affect what becomes of our weakest units. They might not be as good of players as a proven depth guy like Isaac is, but in my mind they are far more valuable and important to the team outcomes.

  11. Lanknows
    Comments: 3611
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jul 24, 2017 at 7:04 PM

    The big factors that will decide how much Isaac plays this year have very little to do with his ability as a runner. The things that will influence it most are:

    -Evans & Higdon’s health.
    -Evan’s workload. Can he handle 15,20, 25 snaps without tiring?
    -Isaac’s humility. Can he embrace being a supporting player who will block with effort, enthusiasm, and intelligence?
    -The 3 freshman. Odds are that at least one of them is a better runner than Isaac, so Isaac will have to fend them off by demonstrating he has the full package of RB skills and can be trusted on a down-to-down basis ahead of them. That hasn’t been his strength area but he’s got 4 years experience as an advantage over them.

  12. Comments: 978
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Jul 24, 2017 at 8:17 PM

    Last year our worst runner, Devion Smith got the most snaps only because he was far and away our best blocking running back. The key to getting snaps this year is going to be blowing up Devin Bush in live scrimmages. Knock blitzing Devin Bush on his ass once or twice when it goes live, and I don’t care how pissed off the coaching staff is at you, you will be summarily pardoned. If nobody can get that done, it’s gonna be a scrum.

    • Comments: 2275
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 25, 2017 at 7:59 AM

      The two guys most likely to do that are Kareem Walker and Kurt Taylor, IMO.

      • Comments: 978
        Joined: 8/13/2015
        Roanman
        Jul 25, 2017 at 8:47 AM

        I wouldn’t have thought to consider Kurt Taylor, but maybe.

        If I had your boy Isaac’s ear, I’d be telling him morning, noon and night, “For Godsakes, just square up and blast somebody.”

  13. Comments: 111
    Joined: 12/19/2015
    Extrajuice
    Jul 24, 2017 at 11:48 PM

    This is why I think losing out on Najee Harris is the biggest recruiting loss. Much bigger than Wilson the tackle. If Evans goes down our options are scarce and unappealing.

    • Comments: 2275
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 25, 2017 at 7:58 AM

      I think they’re about the same as the past couple years (probably because they’re the same guys). I think the backup running backs are okay. No one’s going to be super-awesome, but I think there’s enough talent (if it’s used correctly) for the backups to be serviceable.

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