Michigan Football: Wolverines RB Fitzgerald Toussaint Will Own Big Ten in 2012
The Big Ten should be Michigan's conference to lose in 2012.
Why not, right? The Wolverines are returning more talent than any of the other top teams in the Big Ten. Their defense, which made huge strides under Brady Hoke, should be even better. And of course, Denard Robinson will likely end up in the Heisman Trophy race by the end of the season.
But the success of Michigan's offense won't be all about Robinson. In fact, the most important player on offense for the Wolverines next season could very well be their tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint.
There's going to be many different position competitions this spring, but it's already been reported by the Detroit Free Press that Toussaint has nothing to worry about. Come this fall, he's going to be starting (health permitting, of course).
Here's what offensive coordinator Al Borges told the Free Press:
Fitz is our tailback and if he isn't, I'm not very smart...We're going to spell him occasionally, he won't be there every play, but our last 5 or 6 games you saw what our approach wanted to be and that pretty much how it's going to stay until it isn't productive.
Michigan fans don't need to be reminded of what Toussaint did down the stretch in 2011, but the casual college pigskin fan probably didn't notice. That's what happens when a given player enters the season unhyped and unheralded.
It took time for Toussaint to earn his carries last season. But once he started getting them, he went off. After receiving no more than 14 carries in any one of Michigan's first seven games, Toussaint got over 16 carries in each of the Wolverines' final five game. In those five games, he gained 678 yards on 112 carries.
All told, Toussaint finished sixth in the Big Ten in rushing, which is pretty impressive seeing as how he didn't become the team's primary running back until midway through the season.
If you average the production of Toussaint's last five games over, say, 11 or 12 games, it's a safe bet that the Wolverines are in line to get roughly 1,500 rushing yards from him next season. And since teams are going to be more worried about stopping Robinson than Toussaint, asking Toussaint to gain closer to 2,000 yards is not asking a lot.
Who will lead the Big Ten in rushing in 2012?
The general consensus is that Montee Ball is a virtual lock to lead the Big Ten in rushing next season, as he's coming off a truly brilliant 2011 campaign that ended with him in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremonies. He should be even better in his senior season.
I don't think anybody should be so sure. I'm not going to take anything away from Ball as a runner, but he definitely benefited from playing with an outstanding offensive line and alongside the most efficient quarterback in the country in Russell Wilson. Two main parts of that O-line, Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler, are going to be in the NFL in 2012, as is Wilson. Ball is going to be in for much tougher sledding.
So the Big Ten rushing title should be considered up for grabs, and Toussaint is a serious threat to grab it in 2012. We know that the carries are going to be there for Toussaint this season, and we know from what he did at the end of 2011 that he has it in him to be an elite rusher.
If Toussaint stays healthy, he's going to put up huge numbers. He won't stay a relative unknown for long.
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