Fitz Toussaint had an incredible sophomore season, rushing for over 1,000 yards en route to carving out a rightful place among elite Big Ten running backs.
His stock was at an all-time high after his stellar 2011, but he hit a road block in 2012, failing to live up to the standard that he set the year prior.
While he led the Michigan Wolverines running backs in rushing this past fall with 514 yards, he was never up to par—and then he suffered a gruesome, season-ending leg injury against Iowa.
Recovery takes time; it was uncertain if he'd be back on the field this fall, but he's vowing to make a speedy return. That takes guts and determination, and it also commands a significant amount of respect.
Not many athletes can bounce back so quickly; he wants to contribute to Michigan's winning efforts in 2013, and that's an admirable desire to have.
He plans to lead the Wolverines in rushing (via Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News):
I'm definitely going to do that. That's not just what I'm saying — it's what I'm doing. … I'm used to this. I've played the game before. I'm hungrier than I've ever been, not just about football but about life.
I'm just determined.
It's difficult, given Toussaint's statement, to suggest that he's not the right fit for the No. 1 job this fall. His work ethic is noteworthy, sure, but don't forget that he has several more hurdles to overcome before he's completely healthy.
The Wolverines have plenty of talent at the position to ensure Toussaint takes the proper amount of time to recover. Sitting him for the 2013 season wouldn't be out of order.
Should Toussaint be the No. 1 RB this fall if he's deemed ready?
And even with a successful recovery, production and longevity aren't guaranteed. South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore is a prime example of that. The Gamecocks star running back rushed for an impressive 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman. But unfortunately, he fell victim to an ACL tear and leg break in consecutive seasons, leaving college fans with one burning question: What if?
Lattimore tallied 662 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012 before being sidelined against Tennessee in Week 9. That's not to say that he wasn't properly equipped to handle a post-injury career, it's just an example of how injuries can come from out of nowhere and wreak havoc.
(View Lattimore's injury history via Bleacher Report's Gamecocks FC Alex Kay.)
Having a previous setback can heighten future risk. It can evoke emotion in a player, causing him to speed up the healing process. These guys have egos, too; they want to believe that nothing can stop them on their path to glory.
That's not always true. Taking a breather is absolutely in Toussaint's best interest.
Luckily for Michigan, it has a stable of young thoroughbreds ready to shoot out of the gate, including will-be juniors Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes, along with incoming freshmen De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green, the gem of the Wolverines' 2013 haul.
Patrick Kane, Green's former coach at Hermitage High (Va.), has no doubt that Green has the goods that could greatly benefit the Wolverines (via personal phone interview).
Derrick has a tremendous work ethic in terms of working out. He’s going to be the kind of kid that they’ll have to pull back—have him slow down a little bit… he’s just very dedicated (and) enjoys—loves working out. To see him have success…there’s no doubt that he’s going to be successful at any level.
The sky’s the limit for him
Similar statements have been made about Rawls and Hayes by Wolverines running back coach Fred Jackson, whose son, Fred Jackson, Jr., prepped Rawls at Flint Northern.
Smith starred at Warren Howland (Ohio), and his former coach, Dick Angle, raved about the youngster's ball-protection skills (via the Detroit Free Press).
He’s very gifted. He’s got tremendous balance and power. He’s got great hands, and he is an outstanding blocker. He doesn’t fumble. In three years, he’s got two fumbles, and one came because he was so saturated in sweat because of the humidity, and it slipped out of his hands
Toussaint may be Michigan's most proven back; his experience can't be denied. In 2011, Toussaint pieced together five 100-yard-plus displays of power, highlighted by 192 against Illinois, 170 against Purdue and 120 against Ohio State.
But it doesn't make immediate sense to crown him as the No. 1 back at this point, even if his desire to perform in spring can't be extinguished and he has an incredible spring. There's no doubting his will, but it'd be in his best interest to take a backseat this fall.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81