The last two touches of Andy Isabella’s UMass career personify Andy Isabella.
The senior wideout hauled in a pair of tosses from quarterback Ross Comis and out-sprinted the Georgia secondary for 75-yard and 45-yard scores in an otherwise lopsided loss to the Bulldogs.
The 5’9” receiver ran a precise route and found separation, even against a vaunted SEC secondary, and was able to motor his way past the defense for six.
Final tally: 15 catches, 219 yards, two touchdowns
Not bad for a two or low-three-star high school prospect (depending on the recruiting site you prefer) from Ohio, who only garnered offers from UMass, Air Force and FCS school Lafayette.
Last week, his exploits on the field for the Minutemen earned him status as a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award. Traditionally, the winner of this best-receiver-in-the-country accolade has come from a big school. The last winner to come from a G5 or Independent school not named Notre Dame was 1998.
All Louisiana Tech’s Troy Edwards had to do was put up:
- 140 catches (second in NCAA history in 1998)
- 1,996 yards (broke the NCAA record in 1998)
- 27 touchdowns (still the NCAA record 20 years later)
No problem, right?
UMass going 4-8 as an Independent will be a hard sell for Isabella winning the Biletnikoff or getting a fair shake at 1st team All-American status.
But as his high school football courtship (or lack thereof) has shown, getting overlooked happens, but so does getting better.
One for the record books
The late-game burst for Isabella now places him as the #1 player in school history for receiving yards with 3,526 yards, passing Tajae Sharpe’s mark of 3,486 yards.
The record yardage also comes after only registering two catches for seven yards his entire freshman campaign.
Isabella is also the proud owner of UMass’ records for receiving yards in a single season (beat it by 204 yards) and in a single game (first to surpass the 300-yard mark in school history).
He is now second all-time in UMass history in career touchdowns (30), receptions (231) and single-season touchdown receptions (13).
Nationally, Isabella’s pair of exclamation marks on a stellar 2018 season put him firmly ahead of everyone else in receptions (102) and receiving yards (1,698), and is tied for second for receiving TDs (13).
Unless drastic things happen, Isabella would become the second Minuteman in the last four years to lead FBS in receptions (Sharpe in 2014).
He could conceivably be passed by Antoine Wesley of Texas Tech and/or Tylan Wallace of Oklahoma State for tops in receiving yards, but would undoubtedly need the benefit of the extra bowl game to catch Isabella.
Isabella did the bulk of his damage in his final two seasons, playing in a two-quarterback system (which expanded to three QBs for a couple games earlier this year) that needed him to adjust and be on the same page with both signal callers.
Adjustments made. Records set.
Sunday is calling
Isabella’s physical makeup, quick-snap route running and college location make him an obvious comparison to Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots.
His size and question marks as a blocker will surely be brought over and over again. You won’t see Isabella in many mock drafts going early because of these perceived “shortcomings.”
To be fair, mock drafts beyond the first round are early and seldom have more than two or three receivers drafted that high.
But in an NFL that has so much more emphasis on spreading the field and dissecting coverages, Isabella has a chance to be a highly effective receiver at the next level. The emergence of the slippery slot receiver (also a top five name I am considering if I ever form a punk cover band) in the NFL’s offensive identity make Isabella a prime target for drafting in rounds 3-5.
Ultimately, he has the grit and talent to be an every down player in the NFL.
Don’t believe that?
They have plenty of players who will likely line up against him on Sundays. They all saw plenty of #23 in front of them at the line of scrimmage last Saturday, and were left in two final clouds of dust.