He was a key component to the Michigan Wolverines‘ offense last season, and was the man many including myself believed was destined for even bigger things this year. His name is Fitzgerald Toussaint and he plays running back for the Wolverines. Last season he was an honorable mention on the All-Big Ten team with just over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns rushing. This year has been anything other than successful for Toussaint.
For starters, there was Toussaint’s off-the-field arrest in July. Toussaint was charged with driving under the influence after being pulled over for running a red light. Later in court, Toussaint admitted that he had been drinking brandy before driving and plead guilty to driving while visibly impaired. Wolverines head coach Brady Hoake had no choice but to suspend Toussaint indefinitely. As we found out, indefinitely meant until after the Wolverines got a spanking at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide to start the season; Toussaint was reinstated after that loss and has played in every game since.
Having Toussaint back in the lineup should have been something that energized the Wolverines’ offense at least a little bit and brought back hope to fans of the Wolverines that the offense would soon be looking like it did last year. Reality hasn’t been nearly as kind as Toussaint has yet to gain 100 rushing yards in a game this season, and has only gained 100 total yards in a game twice.
During the nine games that Toussaint has played this year, there have been a few stinkers along the way. While his first game back (against the Air Force Falcons) would qualify as one with Toussaint carrying the ball eight times for seven yards, I’m going to let that one go. However, his performances against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Purdue Boilermakers, and Nebraska Cornhuskers are ones that I can’t give such a pass for.
The game against the Fighting Irish not only is a big one for the Wolverines every season, but it was a chance for Toussaint to reestablish himself within the Wolverine offense. Sure he had a 31-yard run during the game, but he rushed for only 27 yards on 12 carries otherwise. Considering what we know now about the Fighting Irish defense, I may come off a bit hard on Toussaint, but I’m going to stick to my guns on this one.
The following week against the Boilermakers, Toussaint wasn’t needed in a crucial way since Denard Robinson was having one of his best games of the season. Though Toussaint did score two touchdowns in the game, he didn’t do much else and ended up with only 19 yards on 17 carries.
And finally, Toussaint ran for just 38 yards on 15 carries against the Cornhuskers. The reason I bring this game is that this was the game where Robinson suffered the elbow injury that has caused him to miss the last two games. Robinson left late in the first half against the Cornhuskers and didn’t return. This was a situation where the Wolverines’ offense needed Toussaint to come up big in a game they needed to win. Neither happened.
Let me just point out that it’s not all Toussaint’s fault. There were factors working against him from the moment he stepped onto the field this season. The biggest was the inexperience of the Wolverines’ offensive line. A running back is generally a product of his offensive line and with Toussaint this appears to be true. The other big thing going against him was his suspension before the season. What this did was take Toussaint out of the Wolverines’ long-term offensive strategy for the season because Hoake and offensive coordinator Al Borges believed at the time that the suspension was going to be more permanent than it ended up being. Believe this or not, but it’s shown as Toussaint has gotten 15 or more carries in a game five times out of the nine games he’s played in instead of in every game.
Toussaint is a redshirt junior and that means he has a decision to make at the end of this season: stay or go pro. After this season and the pre-season arrest, it’s in his best interest to stay if he has pro aspirations. Even if Wolverines fans have been disillusioned by Toussaint’s play this season, he would be a welcome return to the offense with Robinson (a senior) guaranteed to be leaving after this season and his likely replacement at quarterback, Russell Bellomy, still needing to gain valuable experience.