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Tuesday Morning Brews: Moving forward

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Michigan’s Ty Isaac seems to have cemented himself as the lead back. Can he reach the 1,000 yard plateau this year?

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Tuesday, folks. Welcome to Morning Brews. Well, it wasn’t pretty at times but Michigan pulled out a 36-14 victory over the Bearcats of Cincinnati on Saturday. With a team this young, surviving and advancing is the name of the game. As Jim Harbaugh has said, this team needs to gain experience and that takes patience. This morning we take a look at one of the bright spots for the Wolverines’ offense, Ty Isaac, before we turn our attention to Air Force.

Let’s get to it:

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Ty Isaac is the dude

If there is one thing for certain, if there is one thing for sure, after these first two weeks, it is that Ty Isaac is the dude. No, not that dude; but rather the dude. In his final year of eligibility, Isaac has been thus far been able to put it all together in a demonstration of football prowess that is reminiscent of what we all got so excited about when we heard that Brady Hoke had bagged a former five-star RB transfer from USC. Isaac’s first couple years on campus were marred by injuries and a penchant for confining himself to Harbaugh’s canine quarters, but those days appear to be over.

Last Saturday, Isaac turned in a 133 yard performance on 20 carries against Cincinnati that backed up his flashy 114 yard performance on 11 carries against the Gators. If Isaac keeps this pace up (123.5 yds/gm), he’ll have a shot at being Michigan’s first 1,500 yard rusher since Mike Hart in 2006. While expecting a buck twenty-five per game from Isaac might not be realistic (this is a backfield by committee, after all), he does appear to have a bona fide shot at a 1,000 yard season. If he averages ~ 75 yds/gm for the last ten games, he’ll be the first Wolverine to achieve the feat since Fitz Toussaint in 2011.

Frankly, I think he can get there. The game against Cincinnati seemed to show that Isaac has Harbaugh’s trust, as evidenced by the 20 carries he received. Last year, De’Veon Smith, Harbaugh’s favored every down back of the committee, received ~18 carries per game. If Isaac receives a similar workload, I see no reason why he can’t average 75 yards per game for the rest of the season - particularly with Penn State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin likely being the only elite defenses left on Michigan’s regular season schedule.

Isaac’s success is due is no small part to his versatility, and he displayed nearly every portion of his game in the first several plays on Saturday. Let me show you a little bit of what I mean.

This is Michigan’s first play from scrimmage against Cincinnati. It appears that establishing the run was part of the Wolverine’s game plan, because Harbaugh ordered up four Ty Isaac specials to get the game started. In this first play, we have a straight dive. Patrick Kugler takes his man to the left and Michael Onwenu holds off the crashing DT to open up a nice hole. Isaac, for his part, takes what is in front of him and hits the hole quickly - rather than dancing or bouncing it outside as younger backs are prone to do. A very workmanlike carry from the grizzled veteran, resulting in a gain of four.

On the second play from scrimmage, Harbaugh decides to probe the right side. The play is fairly well covered by Cincinnati, but Isaac’s experience and shiftiness carry the day. Rather than running headlong into the back of the line, Isaac is patient. He takes a beat, makes a cut into an open hole, and then showcases his strength as he drags a Cincinnati LB for five yards. This play could have easily gone for a much shorter gain, or no gain at all, if a less patient back had been in. Instead, it set up a manageable 3rd down situation.

On the third play from scrimmage, Harbaugh orders a trap that opens up a nice seam for Isaac. Ben Bredeson pulls from the LG spot to seal the end and Henry Poggi comes in from the H-back position to ruin the day of the poor LB who thought he was about to get himself a TFL. Isaac does the rest, showcasing his speed by bursting into the secondary. If not for him running into DPJ he just might have beaten the far corner and scored (particularly if Zach Gentry (no. 83) could have gotten out there and thrown a block when Isaac cut back to the left).

The qualities that Isaac displayed in these clips (decisiveness, vision, patience, ability to make cuts, strength, and speed) will serve him well this season, and could allow him to be Michigan’s first 1,000 yard back of the Harbaugh era. What do you think? Will Isaac break the 1,000 yard mark? 1,500 yard mark? Weigh in with the poll below and down in the comments. Also, keep an eye out for a more in-depth look at Ty Isaac’s success coming later today.

Poll

Will Ty Isaac be a 1,000 yard back for Michigan this year?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    Yes, he’ll break 1,000 yards
    (559 votes)
  • 11%
    He’s a special talent. 1,500 yards is in reach
    (90 votes)
  • 17%
    He’ll come close, but won’t break 1,000 yards
    (138 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (comment)
    (6 votes)
793 votes total Vote Now

Up next for the Wolverines are the Air Force Falcons and their vaunted triple-option offense. The game is a Noon kick on BTN (here’s hoping that it’s not Matt Millen on the call). Air Force is dealing with a wave of youth similar to Michigan, as they’re replacing all but one defensive starter and their leading rusher and receiver from last year’s team. This was surely a factor when Vegas set the line for the game at -25.5, depending on which sports book you look at. Air Force is ranked No. 91 in the S&P+, with an offensive ranking of 53 and a defensive ranking of 119. For comparison, Cincinnati was ranked 101st for offense and 40th for defense. Keep an eye out for our in-depth preview of the matchup on Friday morning.