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April 4, 2012

Fitzgerald Toussaint is doing more with less

After rushing for 1,000 yards in his first season Michigan's starting tailback, redshirt junior Fitzgerald Toussaint hasn't had to prove his worth this spring. Instead, he's fine-tuning his game while helping to coach the Wolverines' younger ball carriers ...

That's not to say Toussaint is comfortable enough in his standing on this team to just lounge around this spring. He's a competitor and wants to make it clear the job is his.

"You have to keep competing because somebody can be right behind you trying to take that spot at any moment," said the 5-10, 195-pounder. "We're all trying to compete for that No. 1 spot."

Toussaint, though, doesn't likely have to worry about losing his hold on the starting role, not after he busted out for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns on 187 carries (5.6 yards per rush) last season. The coaches, in fact, feel so good about him, they've reduced his reps in practice to take a longer look at sophomore Thomas Rawls and redshirt freshman Justice Hayes.

"I just have to take advantage of the plays I do have," Toussaint said. "But I think it's good for the young guys to get in and do what they have to do. It's not hard for me because I can coach those guys up, and I feel my experience can go higher with that.

"Rawls is a little speedster and Hayes has a little power. It's like the opposite - you'd think Rawls would have more power."

On Saturday, in the second of two scrimmages last week, Toussaint broke off a pair of long runs, showing even with fewer reps, he's the man to beat. But he does have skills he's trying to work on in drills, especially his blocking and catching out of the backfield.

"My blocking skills, working on that, because that is really heavy in this offense. You have to be able to pick up pass protection and stuff like that," he said. "Sometimes I look at the linemen and see how they do it, and try to translate that, and do my thing with it."

Toussaint caught six balls a year ago, including a touchdown reception against Iowa but senior teammate Vincent Smith almost doubled him up, with 11 grabs, as U-M's third-down back in 2011. If Toussaint can improve his hands, and his pass protection, he may never have to come off the field.

"I'm a little more aggressive. I know what I have to do and I'm willing to do anything for my team," he said. "I can be put in any position and handle it well."


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