Wojo, Niyo, Angelique and Matt look back at Week 1 of the college football season, and take a glimpse ahead at Week 2. Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Twice on third-down-and-13 in Michigan’s season opener, Ty Isaac was called on to produce.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh loved Isaac’s big rushing gains on what he called off-schedule runs, and Isaac said he’s more than capable of being successful in any similar situations.
“I’ll never doubt my own abilities,” Isaac said this week. “So it can be third-and-30 and they call my number, I feel like I’m going to go get it.”
Isaac rushed for 114 yards on 11 carries in the season opener against Florida and will continue to share the running back duties with Chris Evans and Karan Higdon as the Wolverines prepare for their home opener against Cincinnati on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
The fifth-year senior, who had transferred to Michigan from USC, has entered this season with a more focused, last-go-around approach. Earning praise from Harbaugh after his Week 1 performance and being told he was the team’s offensive player of the week was met with gratitude.
“That’s exciting,” Isaac said. “That was one of the things I wanted to accomplish. To me it’s a big thing not necessarily the personal goal, just you did a lot for the team. I think that’s what I’m happiest about — we went down there and won, we played a good team, fought through some adversity and played well.”
Higdon said he started to notice a renewed focus from Isaac during the offseason.
“He was asked to shave some weight,” Higdon said. “He was focused and determined on it. Some guys would take that as, ‘Ah, coach is talking down on me.” But he embraced it and did what was asked of him.”
Isaac is 6-foot-3, 228 pounds and is physical in pass protection. He is the most physical of the backs and Isaac said he worked on that during the offseason, as well, knowing it means getting on the field.
“It’s just an attitude thing,” he said. “You’ve got to want to do it. We know how much coach Harbaugh puts an emphasis on it for playing time. For me personally, there were certain times I wasn’t up to my own standards, and I really wanted to put an emphasis on that this offseason.”
Not only is he more physical in pass-pro, but Isaac looked in the opener to be a more physical runner overall.
“Ty has been a very elusive runner,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been outstanding. I think his pass protection has improved greatly. He’s always been a good catcher of the ball. His instincts are good and improving.”
Jay Harbaugh, who coaches Michigan’s running backs, wouldn’t say this week if Isaac earned a start against Cincinnati, but he was impressed with what he saw against Florida.
“I loved that he was playing fast, he was playing at his full speed,” Jay Harbaugh said. “He was decisive. He was great after contact. I think he had 80 yards after contact, which was huge. He played with the physical presence he has and we needed him to play with.”
Time will tell if Isaac emerges as a back Michigan will rely on more and more, but Higdon has seen a different attitude from his teammate.
“He wants to go get it, and I’m encouraging him — ‘Go get it! Let’s get it together,’” Higdon said, laughing.