Michigan vs. Alabama: Where Does Denard Robinson Turn Without Fitz Toussaint?

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterAugust 31, 2012

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 29: Fitzgerald Toussaint #28 of the Michigan Wolverines tries to escape the tackle of Joe Holland #30 of the Purdue Boilermakers during a second quarter run at Michigan Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With Michigan's Fitzgerald Toussaint suspended for the 2012 Cowboys Classic, quarterback Denard Robinson will turn to Vincent Smith, Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes for help, but the load is one that he'll largely have to shoulder himself.

As USA Today reports, Michigan's star running back did not make the trip to Dallas and is serving a one-game suspension for his offseason arrest. It is next man up for the Wolverines, who face a tough challenge in the Alabama Crimson Tide.

In Smith, Rawls and Hayes, you've got three very different running backs from a physical standpoint.

Smith is a senior who has over 1,000 career yards, but he's a small back in stature, listed at 5'6". He is shifty but sturdy.

He's a guy that played a lot early but lost the starting job to Toussaint a year ago and was then used as a primary third-down back. He's a solid blocker in pass protection, and he'll be a reliable option, though he is not going to be the threat that Toussaint could be.

Thomas Rawls is an interesting option because of what he brings to the table: size.

He's not going to juke people, and he likely won't be outracing the Crimson Tide to the corner, but he's a guy that can take a hit, slip a tackle and fall forward. He's a big-bodied back, likely better suited for a pro-style attack, that can run between the tackles and perhaps pick up some tough yards for the Wolverines.

Lastly, there is Justice Hayes, the slight-of-build redshirt freshman who is short on experience but long on potential.

The kid was a 4-star recruit in 2011 who is still finding his way in this Michigan offense. In watching Hayes, you can see the potential, but as he showed in the spring game, he can be a bit of picker and a dancer—something you cannot do against Alabama.

Those are three options for the Wolverines, but ultimately, this is the Shoelace Show, and Robinson will be taping this episode without his trusted sidekick, Toussaint.

With Toussaint out, Robinson is going to get more carries. How he handles those carries is the biggest issue. He's got to be smart—with more carries comes more punishment, and as the key to the team's offense, a hurt Denard means no hope for Michigan.

He's going to have to get down. He's going to have to get out of bounds. He's going to have to know when it isn't worth it to try to make the magic happen.

Robinson is going to have to turn to one, or all, of these guys to help him win this game against Alabama. However, the guy he sees in the mirror is the one who is going to have to play an even bigger role in pulling this upset—and even if everything goes perfectly, it still might not be enough to win this game.