Early in the 2011 season, rushing for the Michigan Wolverines was done by committee. Fitzgerald Toussaint, Vincent Smith and Stephen Hopkins saw touches—each with moderate success.
None showed enough clout to take over rushing duties on a permanent basis.
Fitzgerald Toussaint redshirted as a freshman in 2009. Next season, he saw limited playing time at super back and punt returner. In 2011, he joined the tailbacking committee of Smith and Hopkins. He made 12 appearances, starting with the meeting with Western Michigan.
The Minnesota game on September 17 was the turning point for Toussaint.
He recorded his first 100-yard rushing performance with 108 yards on 11 carries, including a touchdown. From there, Toussaint became the go-to guy at tailback. He recorded 100 yards rushing in the matchups with Purdue, Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State.
On Toussaint's playing style: he's excellent. He waits for the gaps to open in the line and shoots through them. He shows tremendous patience and poise.
In my mind, the best point of Toussaint's game is his ability to cut back.
Once he gets past the defensive line, Toussaint uses what I would consider the best cut back in the Big Ten. He uses it to routinely make the first linebacker or safety miss. From there, he splits receivers and turns a moderate gain into a 10-plus yard play.
Toussaint is not exactly slow, either. He runs a 4.5 second 40-yard dash. If he gets loose on the edge, he can really drive a defensive coordinator up the wall.
Toussaint's running skills are beyond question, but a good defense can neutralize even the best players. I don't believe this is a concern for Toussaint as several of the defenses on Michigan's 2012 schedule are pretty weak.
Illinois gives up some major yardage and points on defense. They don't seem to have a good sense of how to function as a unit on defense. Illinois' defensive line is somewhat diminished after graduations and the NFL draft. Tailbacks should have an easier time rushing against them.
Additionally, Toussaint will almost assuredly have another 100-yard game against Minnesota and another against Northwestern.
In my opinion, Fitzgerald will be among the best tailbacks in the Big Ten in 2012.