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Posted on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke says Fitz Toussaint is his lead tailback

By Kyle Meinke


Fitz Toussaint pulls away from the Purdue defense on his way to a 170-yard rushing day.

Melanie Maxwell |

The Michigan football coaches have dangled the lead tailback position over the running backs all year, yet none of them have been good enough or consistent enough to seize the role.

Until now.

Coach Brady Hoke said Monday during his weekly news conference that sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint has won the lead tailback derby for No. 13 Michigan (7-1, 3-1), which visits Iowa at noon Saturday on ESPN.

"I don’t think there’s any doubt," Hoke said. "I think he’s earned that opportunity."

Toussaint had 20 carries for 170 yards in a 36-14 win against Purdue on Saturday, both career highs. He scored two touchdowns — including a 59-yarder on which he split the defense — to match a career best he set in the opener against Western Michigan.

"I think he played tremendously," Hoke said. "I think he had a great vision, balance and the most exciting thing was his burst out of holes.

"The 59-yarder, he separates the safeties? I mean, that’s a tremendous burst."

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound sophomore from Youngstown, Ohio, now has 82 carries for 523 yards and six touchdowns, easily leading the Michigan tailbacks in each of those categories. He's also started each game for which he's been healthy except against Minnesota.

So, in a lot of ways, Toussaint's always been the leader to claim the lead back role since being named the starter for the opener. Yet, he's had trouble pulling away from Vincent Smith, and, in fact, had just two carries in a 28-14 loss to Michigan State three weekends ago.

Hoke said Toussaint's diminished role against the Spartans was due to the "situations of the game," perhaps a reference to the Wolverines trailing for most of that matchup and the Spartans' dominance up front.

Michigan passed more in that game, and Smith is a better blocker right now.

Hoke said Smith and senior Michael Shaw will continue to factor into the offense, despite Toussaint's claim on the position.

"I think they’re so interchangeable to some degree," Hoke said. "Vince was a little beat up, so he didn’t get as many opportunities. Mike comes in and gives you a different gear, to some degree.

"But again, right now, Fitz definitely will be the guy."

Hoke opened the tailback competition when he first accepted the Michigan job in January, and said he'd use multiple backs only if he was forced to do so. He was, for eight games.

But Toussaint has ended that rotation, surely in part due to his burgeoning health, which allows him to take the 20 to 25 carries per game desired by Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges.

Toussaint played in only five games last year due to knee and shoulder injuries, and has dealt with an array of health issues in his career. He also missed the Notre Dame this year with a shoulder injury.

Now, though, it appears Toussaint is healthy, and he's starting to show in games what his teammates have seen in practices: Good bursts and great vision.

"He's just healthy," senior tight end Kevin Koger said. "He'd been getting banged up the last few years, and it's finally good to see him healthy and running the ball hard and staying healthy."

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Tue, Nov 1, 2011 : 4:53 a.m.

Hey Cutty, don't worry about it, why are you on here? Don't you have to team to go follow? I think you're just worried cause you see what our program is gonna be real soon. BTW, Hoke just likes to mess with peoples head, he Knows what he's doing. Sounds like you've fallen for it since you have to feel compelled to say something snarky like that.


Tue, Nov 1, 2011 : 3:21 a.m.

The running back has 20 touches for 170 yards,well DUH,I would think he would start.You guys love Hoke,but sometimes he acts like a High School Coach.Rich Rod got alot of offense talent for this team.If Uncle Fester or Al Borges knows where to put them,and who to play.Its unbeliveable.


Tue, Nov 1, 2011 : 7:47 a.m.

You mean RR got players to come to UM? Wow.. i guess we should have kept him around......


Tue, Nov 1, 2011 : 1:08 a.m.

Watching Touissant run, I couldn't help thinking what he would be with an added 10-15 lbs. of muscle.

Terry Star21

Tue, Nov 1, 2011 : 2:01 a.m.

Stay tuned for the next two years, he's still growing...


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 11:33 p.m.

That 59 yarder was a thing of beauty...great cuts, pure Michigan football. Go Blue.


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

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Tue, Nov 1, 2011 : 12:26 a.m.

&quot;Holy topic irrelevancy, Batman!&quot;


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 9:22 p.m.

As with Jordan Kovacs, I wonder when Vincent Smith suffered his (ankle?) injury. Seems that something weird is going on since the MSU game in which we wre told that we came out fairly healthy. As for Toussaint, he ran as well as any tailback since Mike Hart. Being more healthy as he has been all season makes him a clear-cut number 1 tailback. IA may be way down, this is one match up that won't be in the bag unless we get up on them like we did against Purdue at half time. This one road game where I will be extra mindful to respect this oppenent. I am sure Brady Hoke will have this team as focused as they were against Purdue. Greg Mattison will not forget the big play his unit gave up against Purdue on Saturday, so I look for improvement on the &quot;Big-D&quot;. Go Blue!!

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 8:09 p.m.

I have been a 'Fitz' fan from the jump. Good to see Hoke 'coming around'. I like the way he accelerates through the holes. (Fearless), and his speed in the open field, is impressive. This team is YOUNG, and they are not overwhelmng anyone yet, BUT, they continue to grow up, and they are hanging around. The team chemistry seems to be tight, which is a big factor as well. Should be fun to watch the rest of the way. All this is like walking up step at a time, one step at a time!


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 8:09 p.m.

I still think Vincent Smith is a key guy. One thing that worries me about Coach Hoke is his statements about what Michigan Football is. A strong defense and running the ball effectively. It is hard to disagree with that but why not Michigan Football is a clean program, where players are proud of playing to Michigan and they win championships? Running is great but passing also wins games. I hope UM Football plays right, doesn't violate the rules and wins championships. If that is with a phenomenal passing game so be it The program is much improved, in particular the defense. In Saturday's game they played a spread offense and that great run by Fitz was out of a spread. I really don't care if they play hard, play fair and win. Go Blue


Tue, Nov 1, 2011 : 1:12 a.m.

I second that. More than winning a national championship I want a clean program. It's the University of Michigan not OSU or Miami of Florida. I haven't watched a Michigan basketball game since the fab 5 disgrace.