with poll: Michigan football over-under: Will Fitz Toussaint become the 6th Wolverines tailback to rush for 1,600 yards?
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
When addressing in the spring his goals for next season, the Michigan football team's junior tailback didn't set the bar at 1,200 yards, which would surpass quarterback Denard Robinson's total from last year.
Not 1,300, 1,400 or even 1,500 yards, which was surpassed by just 10 players nationally.
Toussaint, a season after rushing for 1,041 yards, is thinking big -- 1,600 yards big.
Only six players reached the 1,600-yard plateau a season ago: Wisconsin's Montee Ball, Oregon's LaMichael James, San Diego State's Ronnie Hillman, Virginia Tech's David Wilson, Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey and Alabama's Trent Richardson.
Can Toussaint join that club? We debate:
Over-under: Fitz Toussaint will rush for 1,600 yards
Kyle Meinke: He can do it. Yes, I'm serious. No, I haven't been skipping my medication.
Toussaint already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark last season, despite not being named the featured back until Week 8 against Purdue. And what, exactly, did he do after being handed the job?
He racked up 112 carries for 678 yards in the final five games of the regular season. Those numbers extrapolate to 1,627 yards over a full regular season -- and that doesn't account for a bowl game or possible Big Ten championship game appearance.
And Toussaint did that as a sophomore, in his first year as a starter, in his first year of a new scheme. He's bound to get better.
Sure, there are ups and downs throughout a season, as Toussaint showed with a 30-yard performance in the Sugar Bowl. But five consecutive Big Ten games is a good enough sample size to indicate he has the stuff to cross the 1,600-yard plane.
His two biggest obstacles, in fact, appear to be himself -- more specifically, his health -- and his quarterback, Denard Robinson.
Robinson, one of the game's most explosive players on the ground, has put together back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. That sizzle makes it difficult to go away from him in the running game.
But offensive coordinator Al Borges has said he wants to ween Michigan off its reliance on Robinson, mostly to keep the quarterback healthy. And he's already proven it.
Robinson averaged 17.1 carries per game last year -- until Toussaint was named the featured back, whereupon that average dove to 13.4 carries.
As Toussaint's role in the offense grew, Robinson's shrank, just as Borges promised. And I expect to see that trend maintained in 2012, which will lead to a more healthy Robinson -- and more productive Toussaint.
Prediction: Toussaint's goal is lofty, and one that was achieved by only six players last year. But he's already shown for half a season he can reach that plane, and now that he's entrenched as the featured back for a run-heavy offense, he can do it as long as he stays healthy. Take the over -- just don't bet the morgage on it.
Nick Baumgardner: To the history books.
Five players in Michigan history have eclipsed the 1,600-yard mark. Tshimanga Biakabutuka (1,818), Anthony Thomas (1,733), Jamie Morris (1,703), Denard Robinson (1,702) and Chris Perry (1,674).
If you need further proof how hard this would be, all-time leading rusher Mike Hart never hit the 1,600-yard mark.
In 2011, Toussaint had a breakout season, no doubt. And the odds of him besting his 1,041 yards next season are high -- in fact, it'd be a disappointment if he didn't.
But, he'll still be splitting carries with Robinson next year, too. Something that can't be overlooked.
Prediction: Next season, I just don't see it. Toussaint still hasn't proven he can take on a full 20-25-carries per game rushing load for a 13-game season. On top of that, Robinson will be poaching more than his fair share of carries.
It's an admirable goal, but I just don't see him hitting 1,600 next season. In 2013? Maybe. In 2012, I'll take the under.