Suspended Michigan RB Fitz Toussaint not yet cleared to play, despite topping initial depth chart
ANN ARBOR -- Suspended Michigan tailback Fitz Toussaint is listed atop the Wolverines' season-opening depth chart, but that doesn't mean he has been cleared to play.
Coach Brady Hoke said Monday he has not yet made a decision whether Toussaint will be available Saturday against No. 2 Alabama (8 p.m., ABC). The sophomore, who is the Wolverines' starting tailback, was arrested in the offseason for drunken driving.
Sophomore defensive end Frank Clark, who was suspended after an offseason arrest for second-degree home invasion, also is listed on the depth chart. He is the No. 2 weak-side defensive end, although his playing status, like Toussaint's, remains undetermined.
Hoke said he's still evaluating their cases, but "I probably have an idea" what he'll do.
“Whenever you’re in this position, you’ve got to make decisions that are best for the program,” he said at a roundtable with reporters at the Junge Family Center, which sits adjacent to Michigan Stadium.
“That doesn’t mean for one specific team, it means for the program, for the identity and character of the program that you represent. Are they easy decisions? No. Are they decisions that you want to make because you love the kids? No.”
It's a tough spot for Hoke, whose team opens against the reigning national champion Crimson Tide. They finished No. 1 in the country last year in rush defense, as well as passing and overall defense.
Toussaint eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing last year in his first season as starter, and was thought to be a key to attacking that Alabama defense.
What must he and Clark do before they can return?
“Everyday how they come in every day, how they perform everyday, how they are true teammates everyday,” Hoke said. “They’re not done paying consequences on our level yet.”
Toussaint will be arraigned Tuesday in a Saline courtroom. Hoke said the outcome of that appearance will not weigh into his decision whether to reinstate the tailback, one way or the other.
Clark's next cout date is Sept. 11.
It will be a tough decision, although Hoke says that doesn't bother him.
“I’m comfortable with what I want to do, very comfortable with that,” Hoke said. “Talking to all you (media) guys about it? No, that’s not comfortable because it’s talking about two kids who are sons to us and made bad decisions.”
Hoke said sophomore Thomas Rawls, senior Vincent Smith and redshirt freshman Justice Hayes have received equal shares of practice time, along with Toussaint. Rawls is expected to be the featured back, if Toussaint misses time.
Smith is Michigan's active rushing leader, with 234 carries for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns. He is expected to fill a third-down role.
Hoke said he was particularly pleased with the development of Hayes in camp.
"I think with Justice, him picking it up a little bit more on the offense, totally, in the passing game, the protection part of it, all that and being able to stick your nose on somebody," Hoke said. "I feel good about all that.
"We got a lot of reps by a lot of guys, so we feel comfortable in whatever we're going to do."
Hoke said fullback Stephen Hopkins could also receive some carries at tailback if Toussaint misses time. Hopkins, a junior, played running back until moving to fullback in the middle of last season.
As for Clark, he's listed as backing up junior Jibreel Black at weak-side end. Black, who moved to tackle in the offseason, has switched back to give Michigan a more physical defensive front.
Brennen Beyer, who once was thought to be a contender for the starting spot, is listed third behind Black and Clark.