Sunday, August 26, 2012

2012 Season Countdown: #4 Fitzgerald Toussaint

Fitzgerald Toussaint
 Name: Fitzgerald Toussaint
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 202 lbs.
High school: Youngstown (OH) Liberty
Position: Running back
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #28
Last year: I ranked Toussaint #53 and said he would be a backup running back and kick returner.  He started eleven games at tailback and had 187 carries for 1,041 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and 9 touchdowns.  He also caught 6 passes for 28 yards (4.7 yards per catch) and 1 touchdown.

If I awarded an annual Underranked Player of the Year trophy, it would go to Fitzgerald Toussaint.  It wasn't that I was down on Toussaint's abilities, but I didn't expect him to stay healthy.  There always seem to be a couple players who suffer from perpetual injuries, and he was one up to that point.  Toussaint took over the starting running back job and rushed for 120+ yards in four out of the last six games.  His best performance came against Illinois, when he rushed 27 times for 192 yards and a touchdown.  He's got the best of both worlds, because he's part Jitterbug and part Mini-Plow; he can make you miss and gain some tough yards.

Naturally, once he rid himself of the injury bug, he caught the Grady-Stonum bug and got picked up by the police for driving under the influence of things that should not have been influencing him.  It's unclear how soon he will be cleared to play, although he missed some practice time and most people (including me) think he should miss at least the first half of the opener against Alabama, if not more.  The loss of Toussaint for the Alabama game could potentially be disastrous.  The coaches like Thomas Rawls and so do a lot of analysts and fans, but he only has 13 carries under his belt and does not have the elusiveness of Toussaint.  Rawls is going to have to break tackles that Toussaint would likely avoid, and that's going to slow down the offense.  Whenever #28 returns to action, he should pick up where he left off and have another great performance this season.  A missed start or two could cost him some end-of-season accolades within the Big Ten, and the presence of guys like Montee Ball, Rex Burkhead, and Le'Veon Bell in the conference could drop him to All-Big Ten Honorable Mention or even off the list altogether.

Prediction: Starting running back (whenever he returns); 180 carries, 1020 yards, 10 touchdowns

Poll results: Ricky Barnum got 69% of the vote for the #3 spot, while Toussaint got 30%.


  1. Not sure that losing him for Alabama would be "disastrous", since even with him, our chances for winning that game are pretty low. ND will be the first game where not having him would have the potential to knock us from a win to a loss, and hopefully he'll be back by then.

    1. If Toussaint doesn't play against Alabama, I don't think Michigan has a chance to win that game. They might have a chance if he plays.

      (I'm not saying he should play, by the way, just that it will hurt the team if he doesn't.)

    2. Their chances are certainly better with Fitz, but against VaTech he only ran for 30 yards. There's a chance Bama bottles up the run game no matter who the RB is. For M to win, Denard's going to have to make plays with his legs or with his arm (with receiver help).

    3. I know loss of playing time is supposed to be the ultimate punishment, but there must be dozens of alternative consequences that would send a message to Toussaint but avoid punishing the whole team at the same time. Is suspension from the Alabama game really the best way to increase the likelihood that Toussaint makes more responsible decisions in the future? Probably not. Just ask Darryl Stonum.

      Toussaint should be provided with targeted interventions and individual consequences for his behavior which reduce the probability of future irresponsible decisions and avoids punishing the entire team.

    4. @Andrew

      That presumes the only purpose is to teach Fitz a lesson, but the issue is much bigger than that. Not only does it teach the rest of the team a lesson (even if most of them don't need it), but it sends a message to the very large community of Michigan fans.

      I'm sure Stonum had 'targeted interventions and individual consequences' too.

      I get what you're saying about not 'punishing the team', but that's just one view of the the repercussions. You may as well argue that Rawls doesn't deserve to be rewarded for someone elses crime. It's not about rewarding Alabama or punishing Michigan its about sending a message of right and wrong.

      Its true that football and playing time aren't the real issue here, but they are the public face of it. If Hoke doesn't suspend Fitz it looks, to outsiders, like he is 'getting away with it'. Hoke then has to deal with the inevitable perception that it is a minor offense.

    5. No, the only purpose is to prevent Toussaint from getting another DUI. Hoke doesn't need to teach Michigan fans or rule abiding players a lesson. He needs to address the established problem and prevent it from happening again. Saying, "Fitz got a DUI; therefore, he isn't allowed to play in Michigan's first football game" is a terrible way of accomplishing that goal and doesn't make a whole lot of sense, either.

      What were the circumstances under which the DUI occurred? How can his attitude and thoughts toward drinking and driving be changed? What is a meaningful consequence that will more directly relate to the problem behavior (i.e. temporary loss of licence, early curfew)? These are the things that are likely to help improve the problem.

      If Hoke can hold the public in the dark about football related stuff, then he certainly doesn't have to answer to Michigan fans about how Toussaint's DUI is being handled. If the team had to suffer consequences because a suspension were the best way to handle the problem, then so be it. But it's not necessary here.

    6. The circumstances were drinking and then getting behind the wheel. It's not real complicated. Fitz put other peoples lives at risk.

      This is not just about Fitz. Michigan football players and the program as a whole has a special role in the community. The players get alot of special treatment and with that come special responsibilities. All the football coaches talk about leadership. Part of leadership is responsibility - and accountability. You can't talk about The Team The Team The Team and leadership leadership leadership... then switch to individualism when someone screws up.

      One could easily make the argument that someone who commits a crime is punished enough by the legal system, and the embarrassment of being caught breaking the law. Maybe we should just let the legal system deal with that but that's not what our society has determined is appropriate when it comes to sports. That's why everyone applauded the NCAA for punishing Penn State over something that was only tangentially related to athletics. Let me ask you this - would you apply the same logic (don't punish the team for the individual's actions) to Cissoko or Harrison for their actions"?

      Now, even if you apply your myopic opinion, ignore Michigan football's role and prominence and focus on only Toussaint's 'rehabilitation' AND you make the assumption that he hasn't already faced enough embarrassment and punishment to be scared straight...who are you to say that missing football time isn't just the prescription to keep Fitz from doing it again? I don't see how you can make that judgment unless you know him personally.

      If we're getting into that realm of applying personal opinion to what punishments would have any sort of impact on future behavior, I suspect a temporary loss of license or an early curfew won't have much of one. They are minor annoyances. These are things that encourage you to not get caught again - not to change your ways. Getting publicly shamed is something that is far more likely to hit home. Missing football - that's far more likely to sting, given how much work these guys put in for the privilege of playing. Now if you want to talk about therapy or counseling - sure, that sounds great. Personally, I'd tried to find family members of people who lost loved ones to drunk driving. If that doesn't work you're just a selfish a-hole, like Daryl Stonum.

    7. BTW, Larry Harrison serves as an interesting example.

      ---Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr suspended Harrison indefinitely from the Michigan football team last December following his arraignment on charges of indecent exposure. "The charges are very serious and very alarming," Carr said in a statement at the time of the suspension. --

      I'd say Toussaint's crime is also 'serious and very alarming'.

    8. You're right - it's really not complicated. Toussaint drove after drinking too much, which put people's lives at risk, and we don't want him to do it again. That's why interventions and consequences aimed at the DIRECT PROBLEM and ROOT CAUSE should be the primary focus. If you consider that "myopic" then I don't know what to tell you.

      Obviously there is a point where a player's behavior becomes chronic, despite many consequences, interventions, and support. That's why I didn't have a problem with Stonum being booted. But Stonum wasn't kicked off of the team because we were trying to modify his behavior - it was to permanently cut ties. I'm not advocating that the football program affiliate itself with felons and criminals. I'm saying that if Hoke doesn't plan to kick him off of the team--which obviously he doesn't--then holding Fitz out of two or four quarters of football probably isn't the most effective strategy to change his behavior. If I were convinced it were, I'd have no problem with the impact on the team.

      As far as public image, Michigan's "special role in the community" does not entitle Michigan football fans to information regarding Toussaint's consequences or treatment. All Hoke has to say is that the punishments and rehabilitation are happening internally and in coordination with treatment providers and law enforcement.

      Obviously Toussaint's behavior was "serious and very alarming." That's why prescribing two/four quarters of a football game on the bench seems misguided. Not everything can be solved by football coaches, and a short term suspension is just about the most unsophisticated, generic, punitive, detached consequence I can think of. Get Toussaint in touch with professionals in the legal system and clinical realm, with people who know what they're doing. Give him all the tools to change, and if he doesn't, then make a strong statement. Not a one game statement.

    9. Lanko, you're right...Andrew can't make the judgement concerning the best punishment for Fitz unless he knows him personally. But neither can you, even though you seem to think you can.

      Leave it to the coaches. They actually DO know Fitz personally. Leave it at that.

      Screw public opinion...Glenn Winston went from jail to the practice field before spearheading Dorm Brawl II at MSU, Chris L. Rucker missed no time for a DUI midseason, the Michael Floyd thing...and NO ONE CARED except a few of us on the blogosphere wringing our fists from ivory towers.

    10. @Andrew

      As outsiders, we don't know the 'root cause' of the problem, and we certainly don't know how best to get at it.

      What I consider myopic is pretending this is a situation that is exclusively about the individual, and exclusively about modifying his behavior. Michigan football has more meaning than the sum of the individuals that make up the team.

      I find it deliberately obtuse to pretend that Hoke's punishment have no repercussions outside of the individual. Are you genuinely arguing that people won't think he 'got off easy' if he is not suspended - because that is EXACTLY what Michigan fans said about Michael Floyd. Brian Kelly said "that the punishments and rehabilitation are happening internally" and everyone questions his character.

      A suspension does not preclude any of the measures you suggested. All a suspension does is send a public message that this type of crime is not going to be ignored and does not acceptable behavior for a 'Michigan Man'.

      Stonum was a repeat offender who was NOT suspended after his first offense. This is the example you want to follow?

      You didn't answer my question about Cissoko or Harrison. Is it exclusively the job of the law to punish? Was it unfair to the team that they got booted?


      No, I don't claim to know how to modify Fitz's behavior. I have no clue if a suspension will or won't do that - it's beside the point. I disagree with the premise that that goal of Hoke's punishment is behavior modification for the individual. I'm fine with whatever means Hoke finds appropriate in private, but a public punishment is important as well. The suspension (or lackthereof) is the public face of Michigan football and the values they represent on this matter.

      I might have agreed with the 'screw public opinion' argument a few years ago, but the Rich Rodriguez coaching saga showed me it does indeed matter - quite a bit.

      You want to be like MSU or Brian Kelly? I do not.

    11. Maybe I'm wrong, but wasn't Stonum suspended for one game back in 2008 for drunk driving?

    12. Good memory.

      Stonum was suspended by Rodriguez for the team’s Oct. 4 game against Illinois for what the coach described at the time as a “violation of team rules.” The wide receiver did not start in the Oct. 11 loss to Toledo, but he did play in that game.

    13. @ Lanko

      Your question about Cissoko and Harrison are addressed in the second paragraph of my previous response. Regarding the rest, I guess we just differ in the role football coaches have in addressing serious matters for which they have no training and the degree to which the public will believe the coaches when they say consequences and treatment are actually happening. To me, the coaches should emphasize that there are systems and professionals already in place (leagal, clinical) to take care of these matters and that they are time intensive and lengthy. I don't know what kind of message it sends to people when you say, "Fitz got a DUI. He will now miss four quarters of a football game. That is how this situation is being handled." That makes the crime seem insignificant, IMO. Again, if he can't change his behavior after going through the appropriate channels, then cut ties. But suspension for one game or one half just seems inconsequential.

    14. I think there's a good bit we agree on - and that is that the individual 'rehabilitation' is unlikely to happen purely via a suspension. The significant bits of whatever rehabilitation is necessary will likely (hopefully) happen outside of football. That said, I HOPE this is an isolated event - one that Fitz learns from and never repeats - not some sort of chronic problem that requires counseling or anything 'clinical'. I have no way to know about all that though...

      The argument that a suspension alone isn't sufficient is a straw man. A suspension doesn't preclude other things from happening.

      I think a suspension is a necessary message to send to the public and the team, given the seriousness of the crime. I don't think suspensions or expulsions are reserved for repeat offenders. If a guy with a sterling reputation like, say, Craig Roh went out and murdered someone, I think it would be appropriate to boot him immediately.

      It seems like Toussaint will not be suspended, so it appears Hoke disagrees with my opinion. I think opposing fanbases will criticize Michigan for it, and I think they're right, even if they're hypocrites.

  2. I feel that you guys undervalue Thomas Rawls as a #1 tailback! If he is so sluggish why was he even recruited by UM, why has be gotten comparisons to Mark Ingram? I also think you guys undervalue Johnson (the FR RB). If you do your research you would learn and know that the only reason that Rawls was a 3 star is because he wasn't heavily recruited due to the potential that he wouldn't be academically ineligible. As far as Johnson is concerned, the only reason he wasn't any higher rated than he was is because he didn't go to camps. He was training for track and attending camps for track instead of football. I believe he was doing this in hopes of going to the Olympics. As I said, I believe both of you undervalue both Rawls and Johnson. Granted I would love to see Johnson get a redshirt year..I'd actually liked to see Rawls redshirt last season but that's neither here nor there!

    1. You're certainly entitled to your opinion.

    2. I feel that most of us aren't sold on unproven commodities regardless of accolades from a hyperbole-crazed coach, and that's really all that needs to be said in response to your post.

    3. "wouldn't be academically ineligible," wait, wha? Your 10th grade English teacher called and says you was her most big failure.

    4. I'm coming around on Rawls. I like him as a perfect complement to Fitz -- a guy who can punish defenders with his strength and intensity, and leave them bracing for that contact...setting them up for Fitz when he gets back in the game.

      Rawls is the favorite right now to be the #1 back next year, assuming Toussaint goes pro (which is what everyone is saying he'd like to do.)

      It's worth remembering that in the 'primary back' approach that these coaches want, most RB recruits are not going to be stars. SOMEONE is going to get marginalized. I don't know if it will be Johnson or Rawls or Smith or whoever, and neither does anyone else. But if Rawls is the #1 back for the next couple years, it is unlikely Johnson does much.

      FWIW, I think Norfleet will be the most productive running back on this team within the next 2-3 years.

    5. We will see on Rawls. He strikes me as a good power-guy for the coaches to mix in. I think he may look like a Wisconsin TB in a couple years after Hoke has the OL stacked with hogs. He will not be as effective as Fitz taking zone-read hand-offs from Denard. I would rather have the elusiveness than the power against Bama.

  3. I like Thunder good choice plus like that you admitted you undervalued fitz

    1. Even a squirrel with two functional eyes misses an acorn every-so-often. My Christmas wish is that Thunder has equally undervalued Deveon Smith.

    2. For that matter I hope Magnus undervalued every Michigan to be player

  4. Shoulda just said you meant Fitz all those times you were hyping up Mike Cox...

    I agree that Toussaint should be suspended. But from the way Hoke and Borges are acting, I expect him to play vs Alabama. At this point, I hope he at least misses a half. IMO, it would be a valuable message to send the public about DUI's - a dangerous act that many people still view as no-big-deal.

    From a purely football perspective - losing to Alabama isn't a big deal. As long as Michigan is competitive, it's really a no-lose situation. Right now, it seems huge, but by the end of the year it will be forgotten....unless we win. This team's focus, rightfully, is on the Big 10 schedule.

    Toussaint looked awesome last year. I certainly HOPE the injury bug is a thing of the past, but even last year he was hurt early in the year. I'll be surprised if he makes it through 2012 unscathed.

  5. Love your write ups and insight. I disagree with most as far as Fitzs value. Against better defenses he has shown a perpensity to disappear. On the other hand it is a bit early to write the book.

    1. He has? He did well against Ohio State, Nebraska, and Illinois. Not so much against Michigan State (though he only got 2 carries, so something strange happened) and Virginia Tech, but the OL did a poor job against both MSU and VT.

    2. Agree with Thunder that VT was really only his non-impact game where he got carries. He's a good enough back at this point where defenses will need to account for him. And he is Denard's first consistent running partner so it is imperative that he be available to take pressure off the QB. I focused in on Fitz in the spring game and further confirmed in my mind that he has a lot of nice tools and is the real deal.

    3. I'm not convinced he takes much pressure off the QB. Other than the 1st Quarter of Illinois, in those games that Fitz does well Denard also does well and vice versa. It's a chicken or thing, I suppose, but my sense is the only thing that can take pressure off of Denard as a runner is Denard as a passer. If Denard is ineffective through the air, opposing defenses will just load up the box and stop the running game, regardless of it being the RB or QB.