Facing a dire situation with the timetable of injured quarterback Denard Robinson still up in the air, Brady Hoke and his coaching staff continue to throw their full support behind struggling tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint. But, um, why?
The confident, explosive runner who shredded defenses with regularity last year has officially left the building. Toussaint has instead morphed into a tentative back with middling production in an offense that is seemingly built for him to flourish. Following Saturday's disheartening loss, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com tried to make sense of how on Earth the junior has been able to keep his starting role this season:
If anything, Toussaint further regressed Saturday, when he averaged 2.5 yards a carry and had a long run of 9 yards. It was the third time in four games in which Toussaint averaged less than 4 yards per touch, and for the entire season he is averaging 3.3 yards per rush -- 2.3 fewer than he did a season ago and 1.7 below his career average.
Moreover, he has passed 60 yards rushing just twice this season -- against hapless Massachusetts and Big Ten bottom-feeder Illinois -- and has not had a 100-yard game. Yet as he ran again and again into a Nebraska defensive front that wouldn't budge, Michigan coach Brady Hoke never contemplated making a change in personnel. Never considered looking to sophomore Thomas Rawls.
We know that Hoke and Borges both desire a feature back in the offense compared to a rotating pool of scat-backs, but this collective stubbornness needs to be put out to pasture. This isn't 2011. And for some odd reason, this isn't the same Fitzgerald Toussaint either. Fans, analysts, mascots - they all know what they are seeing this season. Hoke and Borges? Not-so-much. To the men that control how many touches their starter will get on a weekly basis, the 2011 version of Toussaint is apparently still out there running around, racking up two yard gains like a stud.
Sophomore Thomas Rawls has not toted the rock since Week 7. Ditto for promising freshman Justice Hayes. Over that same span of course, Toussaint produced exactly 90 yards on 25 carries, numbers that become almost laughable when you omit his 38-yard run against Michigan State.