Michigan Football: Key Players to a Wolverines Victory over Illinois

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistOctober 12, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 22: Members of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish including Josh Atkinson #43 pray in the end zone before taking on the Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Stadium on September 22, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Michigan 13-6.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

While Brady Hoke’s Wolverines may have gotten off to a slow start this season, Michigan are beginning to hit their stride and will head into their game against Illinois as huge favourites to claim another W.

However, to make that happen on their return to the Big House, the Wolverines need several of their finer prospects to perform their fullest.

Last week’s victory in West Lafayette will have been encouraging for Hoke’s outfit, and in order to live up to expectations, the Fighting Illini are but another outfit in need of pushing aside.

Fitzgerald Toussaint

The man they call “Fitz” hasn’t exactly lived up to the high standards set before him in the 2011 season, but that doesn’t make him any less of a key for the Wolverines this weekend.

After serving a suspension for Week 1 of the campaign, Toussaint returned with a bang in Week 2 and led his side’s running game.

Although he may have recorded a handful of short yardage touchdowns, the 22-year-old isn’t exactly on track to match last season’s 1000-yard tally.

Two TDs against Purdue last week point towards a running back boasting of substantial momentum, but the redshirt junior could do with a breakout week which could easily come against Illinois’ rush defence.

Thomas Rawls

However, if Fitz is to follow in the footsteps of previously lacklustre weeks, a man that Brady Hoke may turn to instead is Thomas Rawls.

Prior to the Week 1 fixture against Alabama, AnnArbor.com reported Michigan running back coach, Fred Jackson, as saying:

I mean, when he runs, he’s tryin’ to hurt the guy. Anybody who tries to tackle him will know they’ve been hit.

He don’t take many blows, he gives blows—and that’s what you’re looking for in a running back.

The “Black Beast” hasn’t carried as much as some may have liked so far this season and has remained in the shadow of Toussaint, but looks ready to step in should the coaching staff deem it necessary.

Denard Robinson

Even through the patches of uncertainty this season, Denard Robinson has been a reliable glimmer in otherwise dark times.

Albeit not so much in the passing game, which many still see as the priority in a quarterback, but more in terms of his ground game and huge capability to run the ball.

Last week’s Maxwell Award winner, the victory over Purdue saw Robinson become the Big Ten’s all-time leading rusher as a quarterback with his 235-yard performance, putting him in good stead for the visit of Illinois.

Michigan’s potential for a deep running game is certainly reliant on the moods of the Wolverines’ running backs, but it’s Denard Robinson that sets those wheels in motion on a consistent basis.

Craig Roh

The only defensive asset to make the list, Craig Roh has built on last season’s All-Big Ten honourable mention and has the opportunity for a notable display against Illini.

While the rushing game may have been a strength for Illinois in years gone by, the likes of Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young shouldn’t inspire too much confidence for the visitors’ trip to the Big House.

Defensive end, Roh, is a huge asset for his side’s front seven when at his best, and could well improve upon the five tackles and one sack recorded against Purdue last weekend. 


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