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Posted on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

With Fitz Toussaint back, Justice Hayes and other young RBs are focus in Michigan football camp

By Kyle Meinke


With Fitz Toussaint (28) as its established starter, the Michigan football team can take a longer look at younger running backs during spring practices.

Joseph Tobianski |

One of the Michigan football team's top objectives last spring was to identify a lead tailback. It never did find its man in camp, and the search lingered well into the season.

Eventually, Fitz Toussaint won the job and was strong for the Wolverines during the Big Ten season. He returns this year as the presumed starter, which changes the dynamic of spring camp in a big way.

As in, Michigan doesn't have to ride him in camp like it did a year ago while trying to sort out the tailback rotation.

"Knowing that Fitz has been productive, we don’t have to overuse Fitz in the spring, yet still try to improve him," offensive coordinator Al Borges said this week. "I’m not talking sit him on the sideline and let him watch. He’s still playing now.

"But that being said, it isn’t like last spring, where we have to run him and run him and find out what he can do. We kind of know what he can do."

Toussaint rushed 187 times for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns last year. He eclipsed 100 yards in four of the five regular-season games in which he was the designated featured back, although gained only 30 in the Sugar Bowl win against Virginia Tech.

He became the Wolverines' first tailback to break the 1,000-yard rushing barrier since Mike Hart in 2007.

Having him back puts Michigan in a good spot, most notably because there are no questions going into next season about who will carry the load. That allows the Wolverines to expand schematically on what they did last year, rather than starting over.

Toussaint also will be fresher entering the season, since he's no longer fighting for his job every time he steps on a practice field. He said before the Sugar Bowl he was feeling a little worn out toward the end of the regular season, after what amounted to a seven-month job audition.

His return also offers the residual benefit of getting younger guys a longer look in spring camp, a luxury not afforded last year.

Vincent Smith is expected to be Toussaint's primary backup and could receive some of those practice snaps, although he's also a senior. Michigan knows what it is getting there, more or less.


Justice Hayes

The big plus for the Wolverines is they can afford to focus on developing younger players who get lost in the shuffle during the season. That includes sophomore Thomas Rawls, who received 13 carries for 79 yards last year, and redshirt freshman Justice Hayes.

Borges said he is particularly intrigued by Hayes, a 5-foot-10, 176-pound speedster from Grand Blanc.

"We’re going to take a good look," Borges said. "That’s where we can use Justice now, is give Justice a chance to carry that ball (in spring), tote it a few times, get him in some pass protection situations," Borges said. "He’s got some great receiving skills, see if he can do that.

"This is a big spring for him.”

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



Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 10:57 p.m.

I thought our running back situation last year not counting Denard as a tru running back was adaquate at best. I say that in retrospect by also including our offensive line as adequate at best also excluding the last two very important games, (ohio and VT.). Thank god we won't have to face the dominating VT defense however, we do have to contend with ohio in ohio. I'm old school thinking about running backs and offensive lines and I can assure you I have witnessed some freight train running backs and some Paul Bunyun offensive lines that manhandled the rest of the Big 10 and win or lose against teams like Washington, USC, Oklahoma, Alabama and the list goes on and on. All those teams knew they were in a knock down drag out fight when Mich. came to town. Back in the day teams knew Michigan would feature usually 2 backs or more that were lights out for opposing defenses. I haven't seen anything like that consistantly in what seems like a long time and I don't see it happining this year although, I hope our current stable proves me wrong. I think that position will only get well when we have the offensive line in place that I think Brady Hoke is after and just as importantly when we get a QB that can throw accurately as well as run fast. For some of you fans that wern't old enough to enjoy the 69 team and 70's and 80's teams you missed some awfully tough Mich. teams. Bo taught mental toughness (lites out). I liked what Gary Moeller did with the teams he coached and recruited and make no mistake Gary brought that National championship team to Michigan. I liked Lloyd Carr but we started to lose some of that toughness under Lloyd, I don't know why for sure but he seemed to get tired after awhile. I hope Lloyd is enjoying retirement I know I'am. I think Brady is bring toughness back to the Mich. Wolverines. I'm looking forward to 2012 and can't wait for 2013. I think our beloved Michigan Wolverines are safe with Coach Hoke.

Matt Patercsak

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

new article on Hayes' situation


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

Great blog Matt. It says it all. With bigger guys like Deveon Smith, Rawls, and Johnson- and stouter and perhaps faster little guys like Smith and Norlfeet it looks tough for Justice to see playing time on third down or in kick return. Maybe he will switch to slot back. If not he'll likely transfer to a team that runs the spread.

Steve McQueen

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 11:43 p.m.

Matt did you write that article? I hope not. The opinion there is not based on anything other than the guy's opinion. If he thinks that Michigan is going to go totally "pro style" well he has to rethink that. It is obvious that Borges loves spreading the field, and using a west coast passing attack. A guy like Justice could make an excellent back in that offense. Perhaps not a full time starter, but he could be excellent on 3rd downs or as a receiver out of the backfield. He does have to know how to pick up blitzes though... Justice can also be an excellent kick returner. The article is pretty harsh in stating that Justice may never play at Michigan or that he should transfer.... the guy is a red shirt freshman for cryin out loud and we just dont know yet if he can play well or not.

Steve McQueen

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 8:58 p.m.

I love Michigan's O backfield this year. It really is well stocked. If Fitz stays healthy, I see him going for 1500 and 15TDs and possibly go to the NFL. Hopkins is really establishing himself as a fine FB, and Smitty and Hayes should be excellent change of pace backs, with Rawls spelling Fitz from time to time...

Terry Star21

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

We're in great hands with Borges...look forward to seeing a more relaxed and confident Fitz.....and I love that name 'Hayes', specially when he is celebrating in the end zone. MgoBlueForTiM....all our backs celebrating in the end zone.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

As We seen it Vincent Smith shown more hart and talent than that other ego trip "m heart", please put him in the mix,... He's a class act... Tim +

Matt Patercsak

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

he has an established role on the offense. He will not be the starting tailback even if toussaint goes down. I love Vince but his role is limited to 3rd down back, he's damn good at it


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

Thomas Rawls was impressive in 2011. It's interesting that he has put on 10 lbs. in his freshman season. He's was 220 and very strong on a 5'10 frame. Justice Hayes hasn't added any weight to his 176 lbs. In fact his high school weight was listed as 181 lbs? I wonder if he's just one of those guys who can't put on the muscle. The same height as Rawls, that 45 lbs less muscle seems slender for the Big Ten- even if used as a tailback coming out of the backfield. But everyone and his cousin offered Hayes a scholarship while Rawls was off the radar. Nice call by Michigan to see Mr. Rawls value.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

Hayes will probably never reach the weight that a full time RB in the B1G should be, but i dont think UM ever really plans to use him in that manner. If he come in and fill a role similar to Vincent Smith once he graduates that would be great. The coaches say he has great hands and can obviously run, so catching screens out of the backfield could be his niche. Pass protection could be the main concern with him f he struggles to add some size, however Vincent is known to be the best pass blocking RB on the roster despite his size. I think we will see a heavy dose of Rawls this season when Fitz comes out for a breather.

Matt Patercsak

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

the heights and weights on the official roster have not been updated since the last spring game (save freshman). I'm not sure they ever will be


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

It's called being lazy and going with old measurements. Hayes has talked about how he's gained weight and gotten stronger during his red-shirt season, he's nowhere close to 176 lbs.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

I think we need to open the pass more so these guys can run the ball. I think VT showed everyone how to stop Michigan by putting 8 men up there . We need to open deep to mid range or plan on the Alabama game to be alot like the VT game. Saban got a inexperience Defense so plan on them putting alot of guys at the line of scrimmage daring us to run. I hope Robinson can hit those passes so these guys can run. And please no jump balls it really isn't going to open up the Offense. Please guys fix these problems so we can show the country we can compete with the SEC. Go Blue and God Bless


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

The VT game shows what happens to an offense when the key man in your offensive line is playing with a detached tendon in his foot. It shows little more than that. Had Molk been healthy and Michigan able to control the LOS you'd have seen a very different offensive result. Hopefully our new center will be able to step up for what promises to be a very tough game against a tough defense. That said you are correct that we'll need an effective passing game to penalize them if they stack against the run.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

It will be interesting to see if our O line can do anything against Alabama. It may just be wishful thinking, but L'm really glad that DL Bama had against LSU is mostly graduated. We wouldn't have stood a chance.

Matt Patercsak

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

you always need to run to set up the pass and vise versa. also consider our offensive line was pretty small last season. This year we are much beefier between the tackles and should have a better time in the downhill run game.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 11:39 a.m.

I feel juuust fine about UM's RB situation. Fitz should have a monster year. Getting the yards he got with limited time was pretty impressive considering he didn't rack up all of his yards against cupcake teams early in the season. Vincent has always been consistent and seems to have a knack for making a big play when UM needs it. Rawls could end up carrying the ball quite a bit as well, and he looked pretty promising in limited action last year. Should be a fun season to watch. Go blue