Joliet Catholic's Ty Isaac is in an enviable position that few high school athletes ever have the privilege to experience. As the top-rated running back in the nation in the class of 2013, he is being recruited by arguably the three most storied college football programs of all time.Notre Dame, Michigan and Southern California.That's like walking into an automobile dealership and trying to choose between a Ferrari, Bentley or Rolls-Royce.Isaac isn't in a hurry to make a decision."I have no timetable," he said. "I will wait until it feels right. It could be tomorrow or Feb. 2 when I get a gut feeling, when the light bulb goes on. I haven't narrowed my list. Sometimes circumstances change. I don't want to rule out anyone. It's still early. It's April. I have until February."When he visited Notre Dame, he was struck by "all the stuff, the great intangibles, campus, nothing off the charts positive or negative. You go into the football building and see all the Heismans, national championship trophies, pictures of past All-Americans, Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian. It's a good place, a little different from anywhere else because it's Notre Dame."At Michigan, he was overwhelmed by the size of the football stadium and "the type of people, good people, big tradition." He has been to Michigan Stadium three or four times. "It's as big as they say, bigger than anyplace else. When you get in there, you know why they call it the Big House," he said.USC wasn't what he expected. "I expected maybe more white collar than blue collar but I got the opposite. I got a lot of high-profile guys, Los Angeles, a lot of Heismans and national championship trophies and retired jerseys. I said: 'I wish you guys could retire my jersey. Who has my number on the team? Will they be here when I get here?' But my number, 32, already is retired at USC. O.J. Simpson wore it," he said.Isaac also has visited Illinois, Ohio State, Iowa and Auburn. He said he probably will choose one of the seven. But he won't make any promises."I took unofficial visits in March, when it worked out for my parents," he said. "Now my visits are out of the way. Nothing else is planned now. To be honest, I don't know if I will visit any more schools. Some have asked me to visit. But if I don't have any interest, I don't want to waste either side's time. If the schools I have visited, I'd be perfectly fine to go to either one of them."However, he is sure of one thing at the moment. "I'm not a fan of the recruiting process at all. When I started, like everybody, I was excited. After you get the first couple of offers, you know you will have an opportunity to play at the next level. But now it gets overwhelming. It feels like it never stops," he said.So while many prospects were making unofficial visits during their recent spring breaks, Isaac stayed home. At last count, he has 23 scholarship offers. He can expect more. But he doesn't plan to make any more visits. He has no dream school. Unless he is really interested in a school, he said, he'd rather be at home."I want to make an educated decision," he said. "If I decide now, it would be a good choice. I want to be sure it is absolutely right. I feel I asked the right questions and got the answers I wanted. Sometimes people just tell you want you want to hear. Maybe it works for some. But I want to hear the truth. In general, I'm not a fan of the whole process."Isaac, rated as the No. 8 player in the nation by Chicago-based recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network, is more interested in preparing for his senior season. He is working out a lot. He dropped baseball to concentrate on football. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder is putting on more muscle while retaining his 4.5 speed."This year is the most focused I have been for a season," he said. "I never felt like this about something going into it. I'm sitting where I want to be. I'm happy where I am. I just want to be stronger for the season. I'm not worried about getting beat up. I'm trying to take steps to get ready for the next level."His goals for 2012? Joliet Catholic's 70-45 loss to Montini in last year's Class 5A championship still leaves a sour taste in his mouth, despite the fact that he set a playoff record by rushing for 515 yards and six touchdowns. Afterward, Isaac said his sensational performance was "irrelevant" in the wake of the defeat."How disappointing was the finish? It sucked," he said. "Good things came from the game but not what I wanted. Everyone wanted to have something to show for that game rather than a second-place medal. But I feel great as a team and as an individual about the upcoming season."Isaac wants to do better than last year. Better than rushing 178 times for 2,114 yards, averaging 11.9 yards per carry and scoring 45 touchdowns? Better than that? Without 1,000-yards-plus rusher Malin Jones, who is now at Northwestern, in the same backfield? With a huge target on his back?"Ever since I was a freshman, my goal has been to be more productive than the year before," he said. "I will see how much better I got during the off-season. I know I will be a marked man. But that's the way I want it. I am confident with the guys I have in front of me."I have no problem being a prime target because I know others will make plays. I feel I have more of an edge, being able to use my vision and see things before they happen. There won't be a dropoff in carries. I will get the ball as much as last year. I handled it well. Nothing bothered me. I will be prepared for whatever for whatever I have to do."
Wade Davis may not light up the radar gun like Aroldis Chapman, but the veteran closer has still had a similar impact shortening games for the Cubs.
Davis is 10-for-10 in save opportunities in his first year in Chicago, providing Joe Maddon and the Cubs with peace of mind as an anchor in a bullpen that has thrown the eighth-most innings in baseball (and ranks No. 8 in ERA with a 3.45 mark).
Davis just surrendered his first runs of the season Wednesday night on a Mac Williamson homer that snuck into the right-field basket.
Yet Davis still wound up preserving the victory by buckling down and turning away the Giants in the ninth. It was the first homer he's allowed since Sept. 24, 2015 and only the fourth longball he's given up since the start of the 2014 campaign, a span of 201 innings.
Even with Wednesday's outing, Davis boasts a microscopic 0.98 ERA and has allowed just 14 baserunners in 18.1 innings.
With 24 whiffs on the season, Davis is striking out 34.8 percent of the batters he's faced in a Cubs uniform, which would be the second-highest mark of his career (he struck out 39.1 percent of batters in 2014 as the Kansas City Royals setup man).
The 31-year-old nine-year MLB veteran is showing no ill effects from the forearm issue that limited him to only 43.1 innings last season.
But his impact isn't restricted to just on-the-field dominance. In spring training, Justin Grimm said he spent as much time as he could around Davis in an attempt to soak up all the knowledge he could.
"It's the stuff that you see — obviously he's really good," Maddon said. "He knows how to pitch, he's a very good closer, he's very successful. But he's a really good mentor to the other guys.
"Oftentimes, I'll walk through the video room and he'll be sitting there with a young relief pitcher or a catcher. There's a lot of respect. A lot of guys come to me and say, 'Listen, Wade's really great to be around.'"
Maddon was the manager with the Tampa Bay Rays when Davis first made his big-league debut in 2009 and the now-Cubs skipper credits the Rays organization with teaching Davis the right habits.
Davis also began his career as a starter before moving to the bullpen full-time in 2014 and reinventing himself as one of the best pitchers on the planet.
"He's grown into this," Maddon said. "He was raised properly. He comes from the organization with the Rays — really good pitching, really good pitching health regarding coaching. And then some of the veteran players that were around him to begin with.
"He's passing it along. The obvious is that he's got a great cutter, slider, fastball, curveball, whatever. He's very good with everybody else around him."
Davis needed 34 pitches to work around a couple jams and get the save Wednesday night. That's his highest pitch count in an outing since June 2, 2015.
Wednesday was also Davis' first time working in a week as the Cubs have not had a save situation in that span.
Maddon said he sees no link between the week off and Davis' struggles in Wednesday's outing and the Cubs manager also has no hesitance going to his closer for more than three outs.
However, Maddon doesn't see a need to extend Davis at this point in the season and would prefer to keep the Cubs' best reliever fresh for the stretch run and what the organization hopes is another shot at a World Series title.
The 2017 veteran makeover of the Bears’ wide-receiver position group continued on Thursday with the signing of former New York Giants wideout Victor Cruz to a one-year deal, a fourth move this offseason fitting an intriguing pattern in Bears roster construction.
Cruz “announced” the move on his Instagram account, declaring, “The Giants will forever be family,” Cruz wrote. “But for now, Bear down!!!” He becomes the fourth free-agent wide receiver signed by Bears and coming in with no fewer than four seasons of NFL experience.
The Bears have been about the business of shoring up their receiver group virtually since the 2016 season ended, adding depth in addition to filling in the vacancies created by Alshon Jeffery leaving for the Philadelphia Eagles via free agency, and the subsequent release of veteran Eddie Royal.
In their places, the Bears have added Cruz, Rueben Randle (Jan. 10), Markus Wheaton (Mar. 10) and Kendall Wright (Mar. 11), in addition to having Joshua Bellamy, Daniel Braverman, Cameron Meredith, Deonte Thompson and Kevin White in place.
Cruz, whose trademark Salsa dance to celebrate touchdowns has been an NFL staple over his six seasons with the Giants, for whom he started 53 of 70 career games after signing with the Giants as an undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts in 2010. Cruz has caught 303 career passes for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns, earning a Super Bowl ring with the Giants and earning selection to the 2012 Pro Bowl.
Cruz has not played a full 16-game season since 2012, when he caught a career-best 86 passes for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. He missed all of 2015 after rehabbing from a torn patellar tendon in the 2014 season and then suffering a calf injury that eventually required surgery. The Giants released Cruz in early February this year.