2011 Countdown: #72 Isaiah Bell

2011 Countdown: #72 Isaiah Bell

June 20, 2011
Isaiah Bell

Name: Isaiah Bell
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 245 lbs.
High school: Liberty High School in Youngstown, OH
Position: Middle linebacker
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #26
Last year: I ranked him #65 and said he would contribute on special teams. Bell did not play at all.

I was an unabashed fan of Bell when he was coming out of high school, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have my doubts about him at this point.  He didn’t even play special teams as a redshirt freshman, and there have been persistent rumors about his work ethic, conditioning, attitude, etc.  He was largely non-existent in the spring game, too.

This coming season ought to be a barometer of what path Bell will take for the remainder of his career.  If he still can’t get on the field on special teams, that’s bad news and probably speaks more to his attitude than physical talent.  Walk-ons litter special teams units (Floyd Simmons, Zac Johnson, Tom Pomarico, Mark Moundros, Tony Anderson, etc.), and Bell obviously possesses more athleticism than most walk-ons.  But if Bell starts to see the field a little bit on specials and gets sprinkled in there on defense, then he might be a late-blooming type who can help the team as an upperclassman.

Prediction: Special teams contributor . . . ?


  1. Comments: 21384
    Jun 20, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    This countdown is a depressing reminder of why I am so glad that Rodriguez is gone. All of these low talent "tweener" types everywhere you look. RichRod's incompetence when it comes to defensive recruiting will become legendary.

  2. Comments: 21384
    Jun 20, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    @ Anonymous 11:28 a.m.

    The sad thing is, we're not even close to getting past all the tweeners that are buried on the depth chart. You'll see more profiles of them soon…

  3. Comments: 21384
    Jun 20, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    Is there any chance that a player like Bell is who Hoke is counting on to leave to get his 25 scholarship players and stay under the player cap?

    Also, have you heard any news on Talbott and his back?

  4. Comments: 21384
    Jun 20, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    @ KB 11:53 a.m.

    I hate to speculate about stuff like that, but I would say that if Hoke is going to make Saban-esque "cuts", then any upperclassman who's not on the two-deep would be on watch.

    I haven't heard anything new on Talbott. He had back surgery and missed spring practices. I'm not sure what his status is right now.

  5. Comments: 21384
    Painter Smurf
    Jun 20, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    Bell's chance at redemption was this spring and it does not appear that he did much with it. Demens is back on the field this fall and three freshmen with good potential (Clark, Jones, Poole) arrive. My guess is that he does not see the field at all.

  6. Comments: 21384
    Jun 20, 2011 at 6:38 PM

    People act like Schembehler/Carr/Moeller never had recruits that didn't pan out. The tweener thing is a weak critique. Did you expect Rodriguez to be recruiting players for a system he didn't run?

    Rodriguez recruited talented players, the problem was that he and his staff failed to create an environment where that talent could be developed – at least over 3 years.

    2008: Most defensive recruits were already lined up by Carr. RR obviously made a mistake in focusing too much on offense but the OL was in dire straights. There is SOME credence to the bare cupboard.

    2009: Turner, Emilien, Lalota, Campbell, Washington, Roh, Gordon. These guys are talents – the problem was not bringing them to campus, but what happened once they got there.

    Furthermore, tweener recruiting is far from done. Is Ojemudia a LB or a SDE? Is Gant a S or a LB? Is Godin at DE or DT (or OL)? Is Standifer a S or CB? No one knows.

    The real problem was not recruiting tweeners it was that the lack of available talent prevented the guys that needed more time to develop (including tweeners and position switches) from staying off the field. Rodriguez needed to recruit better athletes to run his system, but he failed to see that he needed instant contributors even more so, just to keep the ship afloat.

  7. Comments: 21384
    Jun 20, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    @ Lankownia 2:38 p.m.

    No, I expected Rodriguez to recruit kids who can get above 203 lbs. (Brandin Hawthorne) or 208 lbs. (Mike Jones) if they're going to play linebacker. You can recruit "tweeners" if they can play football. Not every good DE looks the same, not every SS looks the same, etc. But when they don't have a position AND they're just not very good at football, that becomes a problem.

    Marlin Jackson was a tweener (he played S and CB), but guess what? He was a high NFL draft pick. Earnest Shazor was a tweener (played S, but maybe should have been a LB), but he had a good junior season and left early for the NFL, even though he didn't get drafted. Prescott Burgess and Pierre Woods were both tweeners…who are currently in the NFL. They were all good football players and/or got the coaching they needed to turn them into good football players. Rodriguez's tweeners have barely sniffed the field, except Cam Gordon . . . who was clearly a linebacker, despite wasting 1.5 seasons playing WR and FS.

    Schembechler, Carr, and Moeller had much higher rates of success, and they also had a better ability to develop the recruits they brought to campus. Recruiting isn't just about getting talent. It's knowing what to do with the talent.

  8. Comments: 21384
    Jun 20, 2011 at 7:53 PM

    Yeah, what matters is the results, but if you're going to the root cause of why Rodriguez failed 'too many tweeners' isn't on the short list. Even you're arguing that the guys he took just weren't good.

    Is it not a problem if a guy has a clearly defined position (like Bell) but just can't play? I don't see how thats not a problem.

    Hawthorne was a reach and was questioned even at the time of recruitment, but Mike Jones? The guy had offers from Auburn and North Carolina, so that indicates talent. He's a Junior who got hurt last year after some early hype. I wouldn't judge him just yet.

    IIRC Marlin Jackson wasn't considered much of a tweener as a recruit – he got bigger after hitting campus.

    James Rodgers, Mike Massey, Chris McLaurin, Mister Simpsons were tweeners recruited by Carr that didn't pan out. Roh, Robinson, Roundtree, Omameh are tweeners (in at least some sense) that seem to be working out. You can site examples on either side.

  9. Comments: 21384
    Jun 20, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    Recruiting is just about getting talent. Knowing what to do with the talent is called player development. A good college coach has to do both. A good NFL coach just has to do one of them.

    I assume what you're trying to say is that you have to be able to identify how a player will project. We'll never know how M.Jones, C.Gordon, and M.Robinson would project in a 3-3-5/hybrid scheme that Rodriguez seemed to want to run unless they transfer. But clearly, a lot of coaches saw talent enough in these guys to recruit them.

  10. Comments: 21384
    Jun 20, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    @ Lankownia 3:53 p.m.

    Bell's clearly defined position (MLB) is a position that he had to grow into and one that he didn't play as a high schooler, when he was a FS and WR.

    And you're right that "too many tweeners" isn't on the short list of why Rodriguez failed. He failed for other reasons, and now those tweeners are left on the roster without positions.

    I don't see many of the guys you listed as tweeners. I don't think we're talking about tweeners as in WR/CB. We're talking about S/LB or LB/DE. Lots and lots of wide receivers could play cornerback, and vice versa.

    Rogers actually played decently at both WR and CB. Mister Simpson was a RB. Roh was a DE all the way, even though Rodriguez tried to turn him into an OLB. Roundtree was a WR. Omameh was an OT/OG. Etc. You're comparing apples to oranges.

    Recruiting is NOT just about getting talent. It's about knowing what to do with it, as I said. You can't have one without the other. Forget about Rivals, Scout, etc. The coaches are the ones who choose the players. And if a lot of the players he chooses turn out to suck, then he's not a good recruiter. I think you're confusing Rivals/Scout/ESPN with actual, real-life recruiting.

  11. Comments: 21384
    Jun 20, 2011 at 9:44 PM

    It seems arbitrary to define tweeners as only S/LB or LB/DE. What about DE/DT, RB/WR, CB/S, etc?

    I'd define 'tweener' as a guy without a clearly defined position and more generally a guy who is thought to be too X to succeed at a given position and too Y to succeed at another position. (i.e. protypical physical attributes are lacking.) This is general definition that applies for any sport.

    To the Michigan guys: For Denard, thats height at QB and (I guess) size/hands at WR. For Roundtree its that he's not fast enough for slot WR or big enough for outside receiver. For Omameh, too short for OT, too skinny for OG. Turns out Omameh is so good he can probably do both, but he's still a tweener in that he doesn't really match the prototype for either position. Simpson was considered a potential FB. Roh was thought too light to be a DE on a 3-man front, so he was used as a DE/LB hybrid. There are many more examples (Massequoi was a WR/TE that was used primarily as a receiving TE, Shea was a FB/TE that was used as an H-back, and theres at least as many guys who just didn't hack it at either spot)

    I do see your point about offense vs defense for a guy like Rogers (who was limited in either case), but some CB/WR 'tweeners' do indeed fit the definition, where they can be pretty excellent athletes overall but lack the abilities needed to fit at either position very well (i.e. if your hands stink and you can't tackle, but man can you run/cover/get-open you'd be a tweener in my book).

    Some guys are just good and some guys are just bad, tweener status or no.


    Recruiting is over the day a kid signs his LOI. What you do with recruits after they arrive on campus is not recruiting, unless you're talking about potential transfers. NFL coaches have to know what to do with talent. By your definition they are great at recruiting, even though there is a draft. Bad definition.

    What you're talking about when you say 'choosing players' is still just identifying talent. Talent, means more than just athletic ability and size when recruited, it means mental aptitude (the ability to be a smart player), instincts, character (ability to be a student athlete, desire to work hard, leadership), and potential for physical growth. That's all wrapped into talent and potential which is what coaches evaluate (and for that matter, the recruiting sites too, though they don't have to consider customized program fit).

    I think when you say "recruiting is knowing what to do with talent" what you're trying to say is that coaches have to recognize not just talent, but the whole package, and be able to project how it will fit with how they plan to develop a kid. With that – I agree.

    But sometimes they're just wrong. Some players with athletic 'talent' are going to suck. I can't say that recruiting Cissoko, McGuffie, or Campbell were recruiting failures, but none of them helped Michigan win football games in 2010. Likewise, I can't say that recruiting Mike Jones or Marvin Robinson is wrong when they're playing for different coaches and in a system that wasn't designed for them.

    As an extreme example of this – If Mallet had stuck around at Michigan and failed to ever run a run-oriented-spread, it wouldn't have been a recruiting failure by Carr. It would have been a coaching failure by Rodriguez.

  12. Comments: 21384
    Jun 20, 2011 at 10:32 PM

    It's not clear why Bell ranks ahead of Poole based on your reviews, not that it's worth much nitpicking between #72 and #73

  13. Comments: 21384
    Jun 20, 2011 at 11:16 PM

    Seems to me like we have two different types of players who just aren't that good.

    We have guys who are decent football players with physical limitations, in size and/or speed (e.g. Kovacs).

    We also have guys who have all the physical tools they need, but don't seem to be good football players (J.B. Fitzgerald, Brandon Herron).

    What needs to happen is commitment of players to a single position (even position group) and develop them physically for that group. Cam Gordon, for instance, was already 6'3", 203 pounds as a FS, so he needed to watch his weight. Now he's a linebacker and needs to gain weight. If he had been on a single physical track the entire time, he'd be more fully developed for that position.

    Aside from Stevie Brown, I can't think of a single position switch of an upperclassman that resulted in a much higher impact from that player, and I think it's mostly because of the physical development track they were on.

  14. Comments: 21384
    Jun 21, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    @ Lankownia 5:44 p.m.

    Your "tweener" discussion is going in all sorts of directions. The other poster and I aren't talking about Omameh, Roundtree, etc. We're talking specifically about the defensive tweeners like Bell, Jones, and Hawthorne (plus a few others) who came in without a clearly defined position and so far have contributed zilch.

    Roh wasn't a tweener. Just because his retarded coaches played him at LB in a 3-3-5 doesn't make him a tweener. He was/is an edge rusher all the way.

    Recruiting is about more than "knowing what to do with talent." I thought it was obvious that I meant that was only a part of it, but it's a big part. Your definition of recruiting seems to suggest that nowhere in the general definition of recruiting is there a responsibility for getting good football players and players who fit your team.

    There are several aspects of recruiting, including:
    – Identifying talented players
    – Identifying which players fit your system
    – Building relationships with players
    – Building relationships with players' coaches and families
    – Convincing players that your school should be their destination
    – Etc.

    As far as the defense goes, Rodriguez was not a good recruiter. It's that simple. Yeah, he convinced lots of kids to come to campus…and lots of them aren't very good. A bunch of them are career bench players or have transferred to lesser schools. Of the probable starters, Lloyd Carr recruited Campbell*, Martin, Van Bergen, Demens, Evans, and Woolfolk. Rodriguez recruited Roh, Avery, Johnson, and Ryan/Cam Gordon…and this is the fourth year of the post-Carr era, in which about 5/6 of the team was recruited by Rodriguez or Hoke.

  15. Comments: 21384
    Jun 21, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    @ Anonymous 6:32 p.m.

    The main reason is that Poole could still redshirt, whereas Bell can't. So I would say Bell has a higher chance of impacting the team, even if it's only as a special teamer.

  16. Comments: 21384
    Jun 21, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    One of the point's I'm trying to make is that the idea of a 'tweener' is system-dependent.

    Re: Roh. I'm certainly no expert on the 3-3-5, but my understanding was that the DEs in that system are more like SDE than WDE. There is no 'rush end' in the 3-3-5 and that role is filled more by linebacker types – ideally a guy just like Crable – The fabled 'deathbacker'. Is this incorrect? My understanding was that Roh was too small as an underclassmen to be real good as a DE on a 3-man front but they wanted/needed him on the field so tried him at that hybrid spot. It obviously didn't work, but if all of the above is true he fits the definition of 'tweener' perfectly…for the 3-3-5. For the 4-3 scheme, he's close to an ideal fit at WDE and the 'tweener' label disappears.

    For guys like M.Jones and M.Robinson, it's the opposite situation – they're 4-3 tweeners, but good fits in the 3-3-5 (at least in theory).

    I think Rodriguez did what you're referring to – he recruited for the system he wanted to run. Now that that system is out the window with Hoke, some guys will be look like 'tweeners', but its not a recruiting failing.

    I'm bored of arguing this topic, but just to clarify – I do think that finding a good fit is an important part of recruiting. I just don't think we can judge Rodriguez on that point when his first full class was 2009 and he was fired after 2010. Again, the Mallet example.

    I expect Michigan to have an average B1G defense this year. Half of that will be from Rodriguez's 2 full classes. Half will be from transitional classes that are partially Rodriguez and partially Carr/Hoke.

    I think I'll just agree to disagree about Rodriguez and defensive recruiting. IMO he brought in talent and plenty of it, or at least a 'normal' amount for Michigan when looking at offer lists and recruiting rankings. There seemed to be slightly more busts than usual, but the guys he was offering like Turner and Campbell and Lalota had tons of other coaches offering too. To me, that's not bad recruiting.

    The failing was in developing, retaining, and nourishing those guys from talented high school kids to productive B1G players. Too slow, too infrequent, too inconsistent – all these things are true for Rodriguez's development of the defense.

    We'll see over the next couple years. If the remaining players from the 2009 and 2010 classes are riding the pine in favor of younger Hoke guys like Poole, Heitzman, and the 2012 recruits, then I think I'll end up agreeing with your assessment of Rodriguez's defensive recruiting.

  17. Comments: 21384
    Jun 21, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    @ Lankownia 12:36 p.m.

    But when Roh was recruited, Michigan had run a 4-3 in 2008 and was planning to run a 4-3 in 2009. He wasn't recruited as a "tweener" because the system fit him perfectly. Not until 2010 did Rodriguez switch to a 3-3-5, for which a sophomore Roh was ill suited. So he wasn't a tweener recruit.

    Part of my theory is based on my own assessments, too. There are guys I didn't think were tweeners (Roh was a DE; Cam Gordon was a LB) and/or I didn't like very much (Lalota, Cissoko). If Rodriguez had hired a competent defensive coordinator or if he just hadn't f-ed with Shafer/Robinson's defenses in the first place, those guys brought in for the 4-3 could have been playing those positions from Day 1. Roh would be in his 3rd year of playing DE exclusively, and Cam Gordon would be in his 3rd year of playing LB. Instead, they bounced around and have lost a significant amount of time for development.

    To me it's all enveloped in "recruiting" although I realize player development is partly outside the "recruiting" category.

  18. Comments: 21384
    Jun 21, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    True, Roh wasn't a tweener when he was recruited – but neither were Jones/Robinson because it appears that at least some of the staff always had designs on going to the 3-3-5, or at least using the LBs/Ss a little differently.

    I completely agree with your second paragraph. If Rodriguez had just stuck with Shafer and let him run a consistent defense, a lot of the potholes along the way wouldn't have become craters. If he had run a 3-3-5 from day one, it might have been fine too.

    Again, I view those type of decisions as distinct from recruiting. I don't think Rodriguez planned to change schemes or coordinators – that's just how it worked out. I don't think it's wise to recruit anticipating those kind of changes.

    Its hard for me to view recruiting guys like Marvin Robinson as a mistake under any circumstances. Even if he never has much of an impact on the field, thats just how it works sometimes. Recruiting is about taking educated guesses and sometimes those guesses are just going to be wrong.

  19. Comments: 21384
    Jun 21, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    @ Lankownia 1:21 p.m.

    Jones was still a tweener. Nobody knew whether he was a safety or a linebacker. And while he's played linebacker all three years, he's never been more than 210 lbs. Even further clouding the issue, he wasn't even the Spur (strongside linebacker) like Carvin Johnson and Cameron Gordon were. He was playing weakside linebacker, the same position that 240-pounders Jonas Mouton and J.B. Fitzgerald were.

    The recruitment of Jones has always been an issue for me. I never understood why we recruited him or Hawthorne, and now I see them wasting away on the bench and think, "If I can see this coming a mile away, then why can't the coaches who make millions (or at least hundreds of thousands) of dollars?"

  20. Comments: 21384
    Jun 21, 2011 at 7:57 PM

    I remember it being clear that Michigan thought of him as a LB, but that may be true for other schools and the recruiting services.

    I hear you though, I have my own guys that I tilt my head at them getting offered scholarships (e.g. Austin White and Teric Jones), but if a lot of well-respected programs send them offers I tend to give the benefit of the doubt and Mike Jones had plenty.

    For that reason, and the fact that he had good reports in the offseason, won a spot on the nickel package, and was Mouton's backup before getting hurt. Yeah, 210 is small for a LB, no argument, but I'm not going to give up on a guy who a) has shown some ability b) has a decent recruiting profile c) has been hurt d) was behind an NFL drafted starter and d) is entering his junior year.

    We'll see I guess. The WLB spot is pretty open this season.

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