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Posted on Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Michigan football over-under: Will Fitz Toussaint become the 6th Wolverines tailback to rush for 1,600 yards?

By Kyle Meinke


Tailback Fitz Toussaint enjoyed a breakout year in 2011. Now, he has his heights set on rushing for 1,600 yards.

Melanie Maxwell |

Fitz Toussaint is a bold, bold man.

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?

Michigan Football Over-Under

This is part of a 14-day series featuring 2012 Michigan football-related debate from sports writers Kyle Meinke and Nick Baumgardner.

July 11: Can the Michigan offense maintain its production?

July 12: Can the Michigan defense be as stout in 2012?

July 13: How many wins will Michigan collect away from home?

July 14: Can Denard Robinson reduce his interceptions into single digits?

July 15: How many sacks will Michigan's defensive line muster?

Monday: Will Devin Gardner become a full-time receiver?

Tuesday: How many true freshmen will see the field next season?

Wednesday: Uniforms: How many will Michigan wear in 2012?

Today: Will Fitz Toussaint reach his goal of 1,600 rushing yards?

Friday: How many underclassmen will declare early for the NFL Draft?

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.



Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

Not a chance. There is no threat.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

A far better question would have been will DR and Fitz combine for 2000+ rushing yards again this season, removing the question about the vagaries of which of them gets what percentage of carries. Despite the tough schedule, if both of them and the O-line stay reasonably healthy I expect that they will combine for 2200+ rushing yards in 2012. Whether or not Fitz breaks 1600 is solely dependent on how many carries DR takes. If he runs less and hands off and passes more than last year, then Fitz has a good shot.

Terry Star21

Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

Kyle; you're not high or in need of medication - you are right on ! Remember when you reported about a year or more ago that Fitz told you the competition in practice everyday (for the spot) was both mentally and physically tiring (he not making excuses, just facts) ? He is more relaxed, still working as hard as ever and will succeed ! Fitz could very well hit 1,800+, depending how much DRob runs the ball of course - that's my only contingent (DRobb). Remember, you have probably the nations best running back in Fitz on for sure the nations best college football team - Michigan wins ! MgoBlueForTiM....Fitz kneeling in the end zone, Michigan winning (again and again).


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

Terry - Who ya crappin? Not even close to being the Big 10s best RB. Not even the best RB in SE lower Michigan. Where did you go to school? Dream on! After he has less than 40 yards on 20 carries vs. Bama you'll know the score! There is no threat!


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

It depends on the offense M runs. If it's the impromptu pro-style/amateur-style/west coast/east coast/spread/no-spread/hell, I don't know what to run to satisfy this crowd offense of last year...UNDER. I doubt Fitz or DR reach 1000 yards, they pulled it off last year, but they will not with this year's schedule. Look at the big 3 above ( Ball, James & Richardson ). Who is Fitz most similar to? Which team's offensive personnel is similar to Fitz's? That may be the answer for the offensive scheme needed to reach his goal.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

My perception comes from years of sitting in the big house listening to a bunch of spoiled crybabies...Sorry! If Fitz is used like MH he will not hit 1000, this year's OL is not equipped for him to do so. I'd employ Bo's strategy from the early 80s: run 40, pass 20 if necessary, so FT and DR get their share of carries.

Terry Star21

Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

I like your perception of Michigan football and some of the tougher crowd. I can agree with some of this, but if Fitz is used like Mike Hart was, he could surpass 1,600. I believe he has that ability, and as I said below - only DRob running the ball more could hinder Fitz.

Robert Granville

Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 4:22 p.m.

Is there really any question? He ran for over 1,000 yards without earning the starting spot until several games into the season.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

This is possible. But only if Denard has learned to throw down the field accurately and consistently. Without a medium-length passing game there won't be much room for Fitz to run. I see the success of the season, with our difficult schedule, hinging on Denard's arm.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

Betting on Denard's arm? Can I sell you some swamp land in Florida? Where's the threat?


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

They did it and got away with it because Denard couldn't throw down field for beans, so we couldn't make them pay for not covering us deep. It doesn't matter what you game plan is if you have a glaring weakness that allows the opposing defense to ignore most of the field. Go check the stats: We averaged about 220 yards/game rushing, but only about 120 against quality opponents who dared us to pass and we couldn't, or did so poorly. You seem intent on blaming this on strategy, but I don't agree. DRob has always struggled throwing mid to deep, and this didn't change last year. I'm hoping this fall will be different.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

BIA2, you didn't answer my question, but you're proving my point. " The good teams stacked 9 in the box last year and dared us to throw... ". So was it DR's inaccuracy and inconsistency or a great defensive strategy by MSU's DC, and a poor offensive strategy by Borges, and VT copied the blueprint?


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

"Sure, there are ups and downs throughout a season, as Toussaint showed with a 30-yard performance in the Sugar Bowl." (from this article) The good teams stacked nine in the box last year and dared us to throw more than five yards down field. We rushed for 82 yards against MSU, for example.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

Which games do you speak of, where DR's inaccuracy and inconsistency has hurt the running game?


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

Let's not forget Justice Hayes, Vincent Smith and Dennis Norfleet. If the O-line stays healthy, we have the potential for a very formidable rushing attack. I do believe Denard will be improved in running ALL aspects of running the offense, and as long as the receiving corps steps up, we are gonna be hard to stop.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

oops..."in ALL aspects of running the offense"...wish there was an "edit" function!


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

I'll take the under Thomas Rawls will get too many carries to give Touissant the chance. That's a good thing because they want to keep Touissant healthy. 1200 yards for Touissant and 500 yards for Rawls.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

In a 13 game season, Fitz would have to average well over 100 yards per game. The Michigan offense for one is not set up for a heavilly stacked running game. Second; Fitz doesn't seem the type to join the five names on the list. Another point is the trailback corps is very talented so a guy like Thomas Rawls is likely to get a lot of quality yards.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

I have to take the under on this one. I'm still not convinced Toussaint is that powerhouse bruising RB that can take a pounding to our opponents. I hope I am wrong though. His 30 yard performance at the Sugar Bowl against a quality team leads me to believe he will have a tough time against Alabama and the more elite teams on our schedule this year. Again I hope I am wrong. Hopefully he had a stellar summer training and will show vast improvement in fall practice.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

So let's discuss how to appropriately evaluate the Sugar Bowl performance. Essentially this comes down to critical injuries, and it will prove predictive. The Michigan offense struggled because Moke was injured and unable to block effectively and his "backup" proved unable to step in to the breach. Again this season our line depth, on both sides of the ball, is woefully thin, and if a key player or players get hurt we face a high likelihood that our team's performance will degrade rather badly. However, if they stay healthy, the Sugar Bowl's predictive power is very weak. Both the run and the pass depend on offensive line play, which was seriously compromised. Predicting Toussaint's 2012 season, running behind a healthy line, based on that game is foolish.

Wally the Wolverine

Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 4:04 p.m.

VT a quality opponent? Not sure how this is defined, but half the teams in the B1G would've beat VT this past season. Your point is well taken - our tougher road schedule this year is a lot tougher this year. More success in the air by DR will open up the run game for FT.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

Why don't you wait until he played a couple games before you ask such a ridiculous question? Then you'll have some basis from which you can extrapolate your wet dream of copious yardage.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.

Milkman, Since when did UM start playing a 16 game schedule?


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

He played 8 games as the starting feature back. Racking up 1041 yards in only half a season. I would consider that "playing a couple games" and as the reporter stated he used those stats to extrapolate 1600+ yard season based on starting on games this coming seasons. That is where they are getting their basis for those "copious yardage"

Tyler Morgan

Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

Holy crap you must be high. Don't even remotely see this happening, sorry.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Kyle did say he hasn't been skipping his "medication". It is medicinal.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

I would love to see Fitz reach his goal, but there is another factor that comes into play...the emergence of another back like Thomas Rawls getting carries. The coaches are high on him and if he gets rolling it would be hard to keep him on the sideline.