ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Even before the No. 5 running back in the country, Derrick Green, committed to Michigan last January, questions surrounded Fitzgerald Toussaint and whether or not he’d be able to recover from a gruesome leg injury he suffered late in the season.
Toussaint sat out of spring ball, whereas Green -- already fast, 220 pounds and participating in Bikram yoga weekly -- was preparing himself to come in and live up to the expectation that he could contribute immediately.
But on Monday, after just one day of fall camp, Toussaint had an answer.
“The starting running back August 31?” Toussaint repeated to one question. “I’m going to be the starting running back August 31.”
One practice doesn’t make a starter. And one player declaring himself as such doesn’t make it true. But his blatant confidence is a definite change in the redshirt senior.
Toussaint said he felt like he was 80 to 85 percent during spring ball but during the first workout this year he knows he’s at 100 percent and participated in each drill on Monday. The difference in that 15 to 20 percent, Toussaint explained, was just the confidence aspect.
“I worked really hard throughout the offseason, I watched a lot of film, I lifted a lot of weights,” Toussaint said. “I’m just ready to go.”
And he proved how ready to go he was on his first play of fall camp, according to redshirt senior left tackle Taylor Lewan.
“You’re not supposed to tackle and the first play he got tripped up and tackled on the ankle he broke,” Lewan said. “He got right back up, no problems. He’s 100 percent.”
Brady Hoke saw the certainness in Toussaint’s play, and in Toussaint’s fellow rehab partner, Blake Countess.
“I haven’t seen any [hesitancy], and haven’t since the end of spring,” Hoke said. “I know how hard both of them worked to put themselves in position to be able to play.”
Toussaint’s tenacity and confidence is definitely a good sign as he’ll be battling with a formidable opponent. Green’s reputation definitely preceded him, and the lesser-known Deveon Smith is also a factor.
The starting job will likely be something debated all of camp as Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges find which featured back fits best into an offensive that’s more in their wheelhouse than anything they’ve run at Michigan so far during their tenures.
And while it is important who starts on August 31 against Central Michigan, it’s more important who starts the conference opener on October 5, or who the go-to back is when Michigan welcomes Ohio State to Michigan Stadium on November 30.
So while Toussaint might feel confident enough to name himself the starter against Central, he’ll need to back that up with months of solid play if he still wants to call himself that when it really matters.