Michigan Football: No Surprise If Toussaint, Clark Benched for Alabama Opener

Joel GreerCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2017

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 03:  Frank Clark #57 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates with his teammates after he intercepted a pass in the second half against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 3, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Brady Hoke's decision to sit or play Fitzgerald Toussaint and Frank Clark in the opener carries ramifications far greater than the result of a single football game.

Sure, playing Toussaint and Clark will give the Wolverines a better chance of beating defending champion Alabama, but it might appear that Michigan is taking this situation far too lightly.

Toussaint, who expects to have a superb season as Michigan's starting tailback, was arrested in Ann Arbor July 24 for drunk driving. His day in court is slated for August 28, just four days before the Sept. 1 battle between Alabama and Michigan.

Clark, who's been competing with Brennen Beyer for a starting defensive end spot, will be back in court Sept. 11 for allegedly lifting a laptop from a campus dorm room.

Both Toussaint and Clark have since returned to practice, but Coach Hoke has yet to clear either of them to play.

There's no question the university is facing a tough decision. Michigan has made tremendous strides both on the field and on the recruiting trail since Hoke took over from Rich Rodriguez. Imagine how an upset over Alabama would affect the few remaining slots of the 2013 recruiting class and the entire 2014 class.

The win would certainly earn the Wolverines a spot with LSU and Southern Cal atop the college football world.  The sale of Michigan merchandise would skyrocket.

But, wait. Doesn't the University of Michigan pride itself on doing things like the "Michigan Men" (and women) they are reputed to be? 

After all, it wasn't that long ago when Athletic Director Dave Brandon, President Mary Sue Coleman and Rodriguez were pleading their case before the NCAA for exceeding allowable practice time. Granted, the charges and penalties were relatively minor, but you can bet that other college coaches were bad mouthing the Wolverines in the recruiting arena. 

Distasteful behavior has surfaced at other schools as well, making both the NCAA and the general public question the integrity of college athletics as a whole.  While the NCAA has a keen eye on Michigan, the atmosphere at Ohio State is even worse. And let's not forget Penn State, where the Jerry Sandusky scandal will suffocate the Nittany Lions for years.  

Just last year, Hoke handled Darryl Stonum's legal difficulties impeccably by redshirting the star receiver, while Notre Dame took plenty of media abuse for allowing Michael Floyd to play.

Unfortunately, Toussaint and Clark are not alone. Marvin Robinson, Will Campbell and Jerald Robinson all had minor scrapes with the law over the summer. 

“Obviously there’s a standard of performance we expect at Michigan from an academic standpoint to a community standpoint and to an athletic, competition standpoint,” Hoke told the Michigan Daily.

Whatever Hoke decides, and I'm sure he's getting plenty of help, the decision better be the right one.

Look for Vincent Smith or Thomas Rawls to start the season at tailback and Beyer to start at weak side defensive end. Toussaint and Clark will have to wait at least a week.