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August 27, 2012

Hoke: Fitz Toussaint status a program decision

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke is closing in on a decision on whether or not to play redshirt junior running back Fitz Toussaint Saturday following Toussaint's offseason arrest on a DUI charge. Hoke admitted he had an idea of what he was going to do, but he isn't ready to announce it.

Working back into the coach's good graces is an every day endeavor for Toussaint and sophomore defensive end Frank Clark, Hoke said at his Monday press conference.

"How they come in every day, how they perform every day, being true teammates every day," Hoke said. They aren't done paying consequences on our level yet.

"Whenever you're in this position, you've got to make decisions that are best for the program. That doesn't mean for one specific team, but for the program, for the identity and character of the program you represent. Are they easy decisions? No. Are they decisions you want to make,because you love the kids? No. But you have to make them."

Hoke said he was comfortable with the decision he was about to make, but not as comfortable speaking about it with the media.

"That's not comfortable, because you're talking about two kids who are sons to us and made bad decisions," he said. "I'm sure I'll say something when the time is right. I haven't figured all that out, but I've got an idea."

Hoke also feels good about the state of the running back position. Toussaint is still listed No. 1 on the depth chart (though that hasn't been an accurate indicator of how things have shaken out during games in the past), but sophomore Thomas Rawls and others have enjoyed good camps.

"We've got guys who have worked awfully hard, gotten a lot of reps through the course of spring football and fall camp," Hoke said. "Two new, young kids have gotten valuable time from a special teams standpoint and a running back standpoint. I feel very comfortable with whoever is going to dot that 'I' or be in the gun next to Denard.

"Vince Smith has played a lot of football here. Rawls, carry wise, is probably not close, but Thomas Rawls, he fits. Then Justice Hayes is a guy I've seen grow as a back."

Finding a complement to Robinson will be key to the offense's success.

"The balance that can give you keeps a defense a little more on edge," Hoke said. "Teams have got to plan for it more. The other part is, you'd like to keep Denard healthy. When you've got somebody who can carry the other part of the load like Fitz ended up doing last year, that's huge to have the balance."

Notebook

  • Fifth-year senior Elliott Mealer has had an outstanding camp to secure the left guard position, Hoke said. The offensive line depth is a bit better this year as a result.

    "Elliott Mealer, I don't know how many total snaps he's played in his career as an older guys with not a ton of game experience here, but I think his confidence level - he's really done a tremendous job," Hoke said. "By far, in my opinion, he has had one of the best fall camps I've seen an offensive lineman have.

    "There's enough in there with the different combinations of guys. We played Patrick Omameh a bit at right tackle, Mealer at center. We've done a lot of different combinations that have been good for us."

  • Junior Will Hagerup beat out Matt Wile for the right to punt in the opener.

    "Will's done a good job. The both have done a really good job, and I'm excited about how they competed," Hoke said. "I didn't think we started fall camp off as well as we'd like, but I'm happy with how we competed. Right now Will is punting, Matt is handling kickoffs and Matt will be pooch punting if we got in those situations."

    Redshirt junior Brendan Gibbons has continued to kick well.

    "The way Brendan has been kicking the ball, I think we're comfortable with him. If it got outlandishly long, we might try Wile," Hoke said. "That's probably 54 or 55 yards, something like that."

  • Hoke called senior quarterback Denard Robinson a "year older and a year wiser," admitting there were times he had to rein him in a bit.

    "Sometimes you've got to bring him back a little bit, because of his excitement and love for football, his teammates and Michigan - you don't want him to go out there and think he has to do it all on his own," Hoke said. "That's not what he needs to do. He'll be a big part of what we do offensively as he always is, but I'd rather rein in a bucking bronco than try and get an old mule moving, so I like it when he's excited."

  • Right tackle Michael Schofield continues to improve.

    "A year ago when had to count on him with Ricky Barnum being out, I think he grew up a lot," Hoke said. I'm excited about Mike, glad he's at Michigan. He really did a nice job of changing himself from a mentality of how you prepare and get ready, and also from a physical standpoint."

  • Jibreel Black is slated to start at rush end after practicing much of the fall at one of the tackle spots. He's added weight and is up to 280 pounds.

    "He's a little stouter at the point of attack," Hoke said. "Jibreel can get bigger. His brother is a big man. I think it's helped him, the initial punch, the extension - all the things from the first step to point of attack is better."

    The line juggling began in earnest about four days ago, Hoke said. He hopes the defense can hold up against an Alabama line he calls as good as he's seen, comparing it to the Iowa lines of the 1990s.

    "It it's always how big, tall or heavy you are," he said. "There's a lot to be said about fundamentals, playing with technique, and an unbelievable motor is probably as big as anything. At times you can get blocked, but if you're playing from snap to whistle, good things can happen."

  • Hoke refused to say he felt like the underdog.

    "No. I like Michigan," he said.

    "I don't know if we've ever had to defend our honor, but I know one thing - it's competition. You go to win competitions. You prepare to go play your best, represent 133 years of Michigan football, a great institution and ourselves and our families.

    "Some people would probably look at it that way, to be honest, but our goal first and foremost is to represent the University of Michigan and this team 133. Representing the Big Ten is part of it. I don't see pressure. I see guys going to play their best football and prepared to play their best football."

  • Freshman running back Dennis Norfleet is expected to be a factor in the return game.

    "He's difficult to defend sometimes. He's got the ability, good vision, is quick, can accelerate," Hoke said. "He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he has a knack and skill level for kickoffs and punts."


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