It took almost half Michigan's season for running back Fitzgerald Toussaint to become the Wolverines' featured back.
Once that happened, everything within Michigan's offense seemed to work better. Quarterback Denard Robinson, with some pressure alleviated due to a dynamic run game, played well over the final three games of the regular season. It also gave the Wolverines a multifaceted rushing attack.
Toussaint gained 1,011 yards in essentially 10 games -- he missed the Notre Dame game due to injury and received two carries against Michigan State -- but in those 10 games he cemented himself as Michigan's top running back entering next season.
Before this season started, both Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and his offensive coordinator, Al Borges, stated their preference for one featured back. Entering next season, there shouldn't be a question. Vincent Smith could steal some carries and snaps as a pass-catching third-down back and Thomas Rawls could see some time, but this is now Toussaint's job to lose.
How did he win the job? He saw the field better -- something that can only get better next season.
"If there’s one part of his game that has made a quantum leap from when we got here to spring, it is that. And that’s playing," Borges said. "That’s knowing where your help is coming from on all the blocking, showing the patience to let things develop and then re-accelerating to bust into the open field, running through there maybe 80 percent to make sure it’s there and then re-accelerating back to 100 percent. He has made so much progress.
"When we first got here, the running game was different just like the passing game was different for Denard. He was running into people. He doesn’t do that much anymore and it’s all because he’s carried the ball more and he knows where all his help is coming from up front."
Toussaint will be tested early. Should he have a good game in the season opener against Alabama and its usually stingy defense with a national audience watching, he could set himself up for a special season.