Previously: Podcast 5.0, The Story, Quarterback
IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE THREE *YARDS* AND A CLOUD OF DUST
Rating: 4 of 5. Yeah, I said it.
Fitzgerald Toussaint returns from the horrific ankle injury that neatly summarized his 2012 season. Michigan adds horses in freshmen Derrick Green, De'Veon Smith, and (redshirted) Drake Johnson. They get back Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes.
Will any of it matter? Will Michigan be able to stare down a first and ten in a big set and expect two, even three yards? Will everything just melt into goo without Denard Robinson's 7.2(!!!) YPC holding things aloft? How much of last year was even on the running backs and how much was on never blocking anyone?
Ack! That's not even this preview! Come back for the offensive line!
The Man Comes Around
"In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer that could approach six yards a carry." –Albert Camus
FITZGERALD TOUSSAINT was coming off a breakout sophomore year in which he cracked a thousand yards on just 187 carries, coming in at an impressive 5.6 yards a crack. That's good for 21st all-time (minimum 100 carries) and was the best YPC season from a Michigan running back since Tim Biakabatuka's 1995 campaign. Yes. It had been nearly two decades since a Michigan back had been so efficient on the ground. People were hyped.
They got a resounding thud, and not the good kind that Derrick Green promises.
The first sign of trouble was an offseason DUI that cost him the opener and restricted him to eight carries in the Air Force game. Once returned to full service Toussaint was swarmed on play after play, losing an astounding amount of production. His YPC dipped to 3.9. At left there are six separate clips from the Purdue game alone in which Toussaint is swarmed by defenders in the backfield. Michigan won that game 44-13; Toussaint eked out 1.1 yards a carry. Yeah, man, eventually I just started quoting The Stranger. If there's anything Fitzgerald Toussaint needs it's a meditation on the absurdity of human existence. And maybe a block. Just one block. Is that too much to ask?
I suppose it is.
And just when it looked like he was turning the corner thanks to a 19-touch, 120-yard day against Northwestern, his lower leg turned into paste on his third carry of the Iowa game.
Poor damn Toussaint.
Toussaint rehabbed with a vengeance, and went into spring camp with a vengeance, and hopes to confront the Big Ten in superhero outfit and big guns this fall. His coaches have taken notice. Borges:
"Fitz has got fire in his eyes. I see no signs of any injury ... He is very hungry.
"One thing about running backs, it's not like the lines. You get to see them cut, even if it's not live or not with pads on. His stop and go ability looks to be right back where it was."
Fullback Joe Kerridge looks like a cross between a refrigerator and a bear (more on this in the Tight End And Friends section) and says Toussaint outworked even him over the summer:
"He busted his butt to get back before the start of camp. It seemed like every time I went in this summer to lift or do conditioning, Fitz was already there and he would still be there after I left."
When fall camp launched, the immediate and consistent buzz was that Toussaint was back to his old self—his old-old self. Tellingly, the coaches didn't dance around the topic like they do on most every other personnel battle. First he was back, then he was playing very well, then he was leading, and then it was his job, full stop.
So… what now?
[after THE JUMP: Yeah, what now? Freshmen are large men. A replacement for Vincent Smith, and veterans trying to hold off the youngsters.]