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Posted on Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 8:09 p.m.

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke names Fitzgerald Toussaint starting tailback hours before opener

By Kyle Meinke

One of the top storylines of the Michigan football team’s fall camp has been the race to become the program’s first lead tailback since 2007.

Just hours before Saturday’s season opener against Western Michigan, coach Brady Hoke revealed his choice: Fitzgerald Toussaint.

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound sophomore fell behind early in the competition, but came on strong toward the end of camp, was listed as a co-starter on Monday’s depth chart, then was officially named the starter Friday night in a video released by the school’s athletic department.


Sophomore Fitz Toussaint was named Michigan's starter at tailback. file photo

“He’s really showed a toughness to him,” Hoke said in the video. “I think he’s done real well in the passing game, with picking up blitzers and those things, and knowing where they’re coming from. He’s shown good ability to stay on his feet and have great balance and vision.”

Toussaint beat out senior Michael Shaw, who last week was declared the leader for the job. He was listed on the top line of the depth chart that was released Monday, but only an “or” separated him from Toussaint.

Hoke said in the video Shaw would also receive snaps in the backfield. There also could be a back who fills more of a third-down or short-yardage role.

Michigan plans to run a power-run game in its new pro-style offense. Toussaint, with his big body and down-hill running, could be a nice fit.

"Toussaint’s a tough kid who makes no concessions to the defense," offensive coordinator Al Borges said after a recent practice.

Toussaint was a heralded recruit from Youngstown, Ohio. He missed the first three games last season due to a knee injury, then later battled a shoulder issue. He finished with eight rushes for 87 yards and one touchdown.

He has been fully healthy throughout camp this year.

Borges said he's targeting about 25 carries per game for his lead back, although that could be diminished if Toussaint splits time with Shaw. He was asked Tuesday if one back still would get at least 20 carries against Western Michigan, even though jockeying for the position continued until the eve of the season.

"If he is hot and he is rolling, (yes)," Borges said. "Sometimes, you don't know until you play. The lights go on and guys are tested. Are they going to hold on to the ball? Are they going to beat people in the open field? Break tackles?

"Sometimes, you get a completely different animal when it's game time. Sometimes, that is good, and sometimes, that's bad."

Borges and Hoke have said regardless of who wins the starting nod Saturday, the running back competition could carry into the season.

“We may have to use two guys for a while, or a third-down guy,” Hoke said Wednesday. “I think it will all clear out (once the season starts). You play each other so much and the defense knows what the line call is, and it is going to be fun to play somebody else.”

Hoke said this week that, although no back separated himself during camp, he isn’t worried about the position.

“From the simple standpoint that competition has really been awesome,” he said. “I think competition is what makes us all better, and I think all these kids have done a great job.”

Junior Vincent Smith and sophomore Stephen Hopkins could also see time at running back. They long were considered candidates for the tailback job, but were eliminated from that battle as Shaw and Toussaint emerged.

Also of note in the video:


J.T. Floyd

Floyd gets start

Hoke said junior J.T. Floyd will start at corner. Sophomore Courtney Avery was listed as a co-starter with Floyd, and freshman Blake Countess could also vie for time.

“I thought J.T. really came into camp and really proved himself to the defensive staff and myself,” Hoke said. “We’re going to stay on him because we think there’s a lot of potential there. He’s done a nice job.”

Senior Troy Woolfolk is the other starting corner.

Freshmen to see time

Hoke said about six freshmen will see time against Western Michigan.

“I told them I’d hold their hand on the sideline,” Hoke said of preparing the freshman for the opener. “We have six of them, special teams, offense or defense really … you just never know. You just keep them positive, and I think the older kids are doing a great job with them.”

Cutting down big plays

Hoke, on his team’s ability to tackle: “When teams get big plays, morale-wise, it’s not good for your team on either side of the ball. So, obviously, we want to minimize those things and be aggressive in what we’re doing.

“I think we’ve tackled quite a bit, so we may be better at that. But that’s why you play, and we’ll find out (Saturday).”

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



Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 4:15 p.m.

Toussaint suffered the humiliation of being the only one caught from behind by BGSU last year on his long breakaway, but he was coming off injury and wearing a brace. Good luck man, we need you. Kyle, you're classifying 5-10, 195, as a "BIG BODY"? omg.

Dean edwards

Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

In all probabilty if you have more than one back that means you dont have any back.But running back by commity does work if you have a good o line . Having one of the most exsplosive running Q.B.s in college will help that running game 1000% .IF they can sustain good positive yards on there running downs it will help the transition to pro style offense SHOELACE will not have to take on the hole responsabillity of carring the run game. we shell see GO BIG BLUE!!!!!!


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 10:31 a.m.

I'm so glad to see a "huddle" and more time consuming drives with a power running game. Now the CB's won't have to play 15 yards off the receiver (I hated that!) Fitz and Hopkins seem the best fit anyway. I've always liked cox when he's got in the game, he could take it to the house. Mike must be a loafer or can't block,not sure. But I have always liked that kid Go blue! I'll be in section 20 row 59 with my oldest son - can't wait


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 8:22 a.m.

Im happy to see fitz get the nod. Shaw is decent, and runs hard, but doesnt seem overwhelmingly quick nor powerful. Hopefully fitz can come in and use that explosiveness to tear off a few big gains and give michigan the RB threat it desperately needs. Everyone seems to be worried about Denard learning the new system (understandable), but i think if this new offense is going to go anywhere it starts with the OL and RB. And our OL shouldnt be an issue. If Fitz can become a threat, along with Denard's ability, the offense will dynamic enough to put points up against anyone. But were gonna find out soon enough, and i cant wait. Go Blue! UM 35 WMU 14

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 7:24 a.m.

I'm glad to see this. Toussaint has what they call burst. So if he's solid on his blitz assignments, he can hold onto the ball and he's healthy, he could do big things for the team this year.


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 3:42 a.m.

Man oh man, I'm so excited. I'm like a little kid when it comes to this time of year, the waiting, the anticipation and down right giddiness of the season starting. I love the nervousness I get the night before the first game. The dawning of a new and wonderful era is finally upon us, let's hope for a great season. I predict Michigan will go at least 10-2 in the regular season. For all the people predicting Nebraska will come into AA for game # 11 after a brutal schedule and potentially a hurt QB, cause he does a lot for them, are conceding to quickly IMO. TSIO with a guy named Bauserman or maybe a freshman at QB and with all their turmoil will lose in AA this year. Go Blue!!! P.S. I was not very impressed by MSU tonight, hopefully they're over rated. They always seem to underachieve in seasons where they're lauded going in, we shall see if that trend continues.


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 11:19 a.m.

MSU was a bit rusty, but they've spent a lot of time in prison over the last 3 years.....


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 2:56 a.m.

The goal -- MOVE THE CHAINS! Watching Baylor v. TCU ... Baylor looks great.


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

that was Theo's type of game ... alot of offense, no defense, and ultimately a loss for TCU because of their poor D.


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 8:27 a.m.

that was a fantastic game


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 3:15 a.m.

Uh oh ... TCU coming back. What a great game!


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 2:48 a.m.

This is great news! I was worried when Shaw seemed to be in the lead because honestly, he hasn't been able to get it done during his career. Maybe it was the wrong scheme, who knows, but he just was not a threat. Toussant on the other hand, looks the part. He might be a bit brittle, though he may have just been in RichRod's doghouse. More reason to be excited for tomorrow! Go Blue! Make us proud Men!


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 11:18 a.m.

Shaw hasn't been very healthy, he's looked good while healthy, he looked really good as a frosh 3 years ago....


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 2:21 a.m.

In Fitz Toussaint's High School highlight film on youtube, that guy looks like a stud all american QB. If he can do something similar to that this year, UM will be okay this year.