Where former USC running back Ty Isaac lands has yet to be determined, but he certainly has options.
The former 4-star recruit left the Trojans after one season to move closer to his hometown of Joliet, Illinois, because of a family issue. Speaking to Mike Helfgot of the Chicago Tribune, Isaac said his mother's phone has been "blowing up" with messages from schools interested in him.
With only Notre Dame all but officially out of the mix—the Irish are on USC's nonconference schedule every year—Isaac said he's looking at nearby Big Ten schools.
"I wouldn’t say I have a top three, but I’m looking at Big Ten schools that are close to where I live," Isaac told Helfgot.
Isaac, who rushed for 236 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman, is waiting to hear back on a waiver that would grant him instant eligibility for the 2014 season. Regardless of whether he plays this year, which Big Ten schools could use Isaac the most? Below are some possibilities:
Of all the problems Illinois has, running back actually isn't one of them. Josh Ferguson returns after leading the team with 779 yards and seven touchdowns. Ferguson started slow, but he averaged well over five yards per carry in the final four games of the season. He's also a dangerous pass-catcher out of the backfield.
Still, the Illini need weapons beyond Ferguson. Whether Isaac plays this year or next, he would be an upgrade for the backfield. Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit is one of the more underappreciated minds in the game. With Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt at quarterback, Illinois could put together some nice pieces on offense.
Sophomore Derrick Green will slide into the feature-back role this season after picking up 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a freshman. Who complements him or otherwise completes a one-two punch in the Wolverines' backfield remains to be seen, though De'Veon Smith would probably assume that title.
Per Helfgot, Michigan was in the mix for Isaac when he was coming out of high school, so heading to Ann Arbor could be a realistic option. Even if it's not as the feature back right away.
Beyond Treyvon Green, Northwestern doesn't have a lot of size or experience at running back, and Green is going to be a senior this year.
The Wildcats did sign a few running backs this past recruiting class, including 4-star athlete Justin Jackson. Still, Isaac would be a powerful back who would be a great change-of-pace in Northwestern's spread offense.
Melvin Gordon, the Big Ten's second-highest returning rusher, will be Wisconsin's No. 1 running back again this season.
Beyond that? Wisconsin could use some reinforcements. Corey Clement did some damage as a freshman with 547 yards and seven touchdowns. He looks like he will be the next between-the-tackles bruiser for the program. The Badgers also signed a couple of running backs for the 2014 class.
But there's plenty of room for Isaac to make an impact.
Others: Iowa, Indiana, Michigan State.
So, which team needs Isaac the most? From a sheer talent standpoint, it's hard to argue against Illinois. Put simply, this offense is in search of playmakers. Isaac would be a huge addition to that side of the ball. And with inexperienced wide receivers, look for Illinois to rely on its run game this season.
The Illini have the luxury of four starters coming back along the offensive line. If Lunt secures the starting job at quarterback, Isaac would add more intrigue to the Illini's offense—if he's able to play right away.
If Isaac has to sit a year to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, he could be in a position to be Illinois' workhorse. Whether he would opt to do that for one season before departing for the NFL, or for another three, remains to be seen.