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."
Prince Amukamara (ankle) is expected to make his 2017 regular season debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers after being a full participant in practices Thursday and Friday (he wasn't listed on Friday's injury report). But that leads to the question: What does defensive coordinator Vic Fangio do with Kyle Fuller?
Fuller acquitted himself well in starts against the Atlanta Falcons — in which he helped limit Julio Jones to four catches on five targets — and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears signed Amukamara to start opposite Marcus Cooper, but Fuller has at least earned the opportunity to keep his job — or a job — on Sunday.
And it's worth noting that both Fuller and Amukamara are in contract years, so both should be motivated to not lose playing time going forward.
“I was pleased with the waay Kyle played overall,” Fangio said. “There's obviously some plays he'd like to do over and play them a little better, but overall I thought he did a good job. I like where he's at right now.”
Fangio didn’t play Fuller as a nickel corner in 2015. But if the Bears want to get their best defensive players on the field could Fuller force his way into a nickel role with Amukamara and Cooper as the outside guys?
That’s an especially pertinent question given Pittsburgh’s explosive trio of receivers: Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
“No matter where a receiver lines up, it’s not going to be a down to take off,” Amukamara said. “We’re always going to have to have our ‘A’ game.”
Avisail Garcia's "big head" almost cost the White Sox on Friday night. At least, that's Reynaldo Lopez's humorous theory.
With the game on the line and the Royals' tying run dashing for the plate, Garcia slipped a bit before making a clutch recovery to nail Whit Merrifield. The craziness continued after the tag as Narvaez caught Lorenzo Cain drifting off first base to seal a win.
"I was watching the game on the TV here," Lopez said, "and then when I saw the hit from Cain, and I saw that Avi fell down because he has a big head, I was concerned but at the same time I saw that his throw, he has a good arm and he made a very good throw."
Just your average 9-2-4-6 double play to end a game on the South Side, right?
"Obviously, when he slipped we took a little gasp," Renteria said. "But we were talking about his body control to be able to maintain himself enough to get up and make the throw that he did. Unbelievable. It's pretty exciting finish to a ballgame that kind of got a little ugly early on."
Ugly is an apt way to describe the first few innings. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada both made errors in the Royals' six-run third inning, and Lopez capped it off with a wild pitch that allowed Eric Hosmer to score. But it went from an eyesore loss to an overzealous "we could make noise in 2019" rebuild win from there, and Garcia's defense -- of all things -- played a significant role.
Garcia's outfield assist in the ninth was his second of the game. The first, an absolute strike to cut down Alex Gordon in the sixth, didn't involve a slip, though.
And while much has been made of Garcia's breakout year with the bat, he believes his defense is hugely improved, too.
"I think 100 percent," he said. "I just try to get better every day with hitting and defense. That’s baseball so get better in everything."
He has 12 outfield assists on the season, up from five a year ago. And despite his overall fielding percentage being down, his strong arm may give him a stronger defensive reputation.
"Since last year, he's always had an excellent arm," Renteria said. "I think his accuracy is something to be pointed out too because as off balance as he was, he's made some throws to the plate that have been really spot on."
Renteria attributes Garcia's accuracy to the outfielder putting in extra time with Daryl Boston.
"(Boston) has those guys throwing, and none of you guys are out there watching them work, but they'll throw quite a bit to the bases, especially second base," Renteria said. "They'll get deep and they'll work on doing that, so that's just a part of their routine."
The evolution of Avi carries on.