The quick snap of Fitzgerald Toussaint's leg in the first quarter against Iowa was a sad coda on what had been a monumentally disappointing season for the junior tailback.
Toussaint had spent the previous year finally breaking out as the starter and number one option next to Denard Robinson in year one under Brady Hoke. The Wolverines ran their way to 11 wins thanks in large part to the 1000-yard duo in the backfield, and Toussaint had finally overcome the injuries and inconsistency that had made him just a practice rumor his first couple years on campus.
Of course things came off the wheels after that, starting with legal trouble that threatened to derail his whole season and then only threw off his offseason preparation. He missed the bloodbath against Bama but looked rusty and ineffective. His offensive line did him no favors, but he wasn't able to make something out of nothing like he had before, and he wasn't even able muster half his yardage from the previous year.
At his best, Toussaint is a shifty and surprisingly strong zone-back, capable of Mike Hart-esque tunneling through traffic, and with the same stubborn desire to grind his feet into the turf despite the three guys pushing and pulling the opposite way. He lacks the top-end speed to be a real home run threat, but it is good enough (probably better than Hart's), and when he is hitting his holes with quick, decisive cuts, he is able to explode for 10- and 12-yard gains on the regular.
His grisly leg injury a year ago has hampered his off season development, but that might not be as big a threat as five-star true freshman Derrick Green, the heir apparent to the MANBALL offense.
Green was the first "see, Brady Hoke can recruit skill players" retort (that meme has been thoroughly put to rest now, thanks to Campbell and Harris (Damien and Drake)), and has had fan's salivating ever since they watched Vincent Smith barrel all 180lbs of his tiny body into the line out of the I-form the last two years.
Green has the size at 6'0, 220 lbs. to be the kind of between the tackles workhorse back that Hoke and Al Borges are looking for. He has good vision, solid speed, and enough shake to limit direct blows (he can run through the rest). He is also a five-star recruit at a position that sees freshmen able to contribute early easier than elsewhere on the field.
Still, he is a freshman, and with that comes learning a full playbook in fall camp, handling blocking assignments, blitz pickups, passing routes, and, you know, being a college freshman which isn't all that easy in and of itself (I can speak from experience). Is he mentally ready to handle the load?
Between these two, Michigan has a good deal of talent at its disposal. But the coaches also prefer to have one guy take the bulk of the load. The shift in offense should favor Green, but Toussaint won't back down without a fight. Both backs bring skills to the table, and each should be given a chance to make an impact. If Michigan's offense can develop a strong running game with these two (behind a still-young line), the sky is the limit for production with Devin Gardner at quarterback.
Michigan will need yards on the ground, and it will have to do it without the old fall-back plan of hey Denard, go do something. Michigan will need at least one of these two to overcome his obstacles and live up to potential if the offense is to be as good as it can.