Brady Hoke backs Fitz Toussaint as his tailback, not considering a change
ANN ARBOR -- Brady Hoke quickly dispelled any notion that he's considering changing tailbacks.
Fitz Toussaint is his man, despite a season-long languor that extended into Saturday's 44-13 win against Purdue.
"Yeah, we would have liked to run the ball a little better," the Michigan coach said Monday. "But when you go back and look at it, you see ... Fitz ran for 170 yards against Purdue (last year). They weren't going to let him do that.
"They were very concerned with taking that part of our offense away, even if Denard (Robinson) rushes for 235. So something's gotta give, and what gave was Denard 235."
Toussaint is averaging 42.3 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. He averaged 118.0 yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry last year after being named Michigan's featured back.
He rushed for just 19 yards on 17 carries against Purdue. Twelve of those carries went for fewer than 2 yards.
Did Hoke ever consider inserting backup Thomas Rawls?
"No, not really," he said, "because Fitz hasn't proven he can't."
Hoke said Toussaint's struggles were a function of Purdue overplaying the tailback position, which left Robinson open for big gains. He finished with 235 yards rushing, a career high in Big Ten play.
Some see Robinson's big rushing day, and wonder why Toussaint managed only 19 yards. But Hoke said there were "different holes" for Toussaint and Robinson, a product of the Boilermakers' defense.
"They were trying to take the running back away and it left the back side open," Hoke said. "Linebacker quick over the top because you're trying to get to the running back, back side's open.
"There may have been one in there in the first half when I thought (Toussaint) could have stuck his foot in the ground, but there was no real golden opportunities for him, and that's how they wanted to defend us. They weren't going to let him rush for 170 yards, because it's what really got them in trouble a year ago."
It's somewhat surprising Purdue would employ such a defense against Robinson, the Big Ten's career rushing leader from the quarterback position. He leads the Big Ten in rushing this year, as well as overall offense.
But the Wolverines will take it.
"Purdue really gave us Denard, so you have to be happy with that," senior center Elliott Mealer said. "If they're going to shut off the tailback runs, which I think they did a decent job at, we'll take Denard. We have the luxury of having a playmaker back there.
"We obviously want to give (Toussaint) more yards. He's a great player. We need to get him out in space and let him show off his skills. But at the same time, (304) rushing yards? We're doing all right. ... They gave us Denard, and the fact we were able to let Denard do his thing, like I said, we have that luxury."
Michigan remains undeterred that Toussaint can rediscover his touch.
"He's an unbelievable athlete, and I'm not a defensive coordinator, but he has the ability to run the ball," junior left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "They gave us Denard, but on a lot of those plays, if Denard would have handed the ball off, I think Fitz would have had the same success."