By Michael Florek, Daily Sports Editor
Published December 20, 2011
Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges showed off the depth of his football memory in praising the development of redshirt sophomore running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.
Toussaint’s late-season emergence — he rushed for over 100 yards in four of the last five games en route to a 1,000-yard season — led Borges to compare him to former USC great and Heisman Trophy winner Charles White.
“You put the (USC) jersey on him, you would hardly be able to tell the difference,” Borges said. “That’s who he reminds me of.”
White, a first-round NFL draft pick, went into the NFL in 1980 — 10 years before Toussaint was born. “(Toussaint) probably doesn’t know who Charles White is,” Borges said.
The comparison is high praise. So what makes Toussaint so similar?
“He’s a slasher-type runner,” Borges said. “He has demonstrated some really good stop-and-go ability in space. He’s beat some guys in the open field, and he does a pretty good job of finishing runs because he’s a tough guy. He can carry the ball 20-plus times because he is a tough guy.”
After dealing with injuries for much of his first two seasons, Toussaint had to battle to become the starting running back during the first half of this season. His adjustment to the new offensive style of Borges and Michigan coach Brady Hoke didn’t start well.
“He was running into people,” Borges said. “ … But he doesn’t do that much anymore. And it’s all because he’s carried the ball more and he knows basically where his help is coming from up front.”
After being the tentative starter at the beginning of the season, Toussaint lost the job around mid-season. His 175-yard performance against Purdue put him back in the driver’s seat. By the time he rushed for a career-high 192 yards against Illinois two games later, he had firmly secured the starting spot.
The vision problems seem to be a thing of the past.
Borges said Toussaint had “a little more swagger” since becoming the team’s starting running back.
“If there’s one part of his game that has made a quantum leap from when we got here in the spring it’s that,” Borges said. “That’s playing. That’s knowing where your help is coming from on all of the blocking, showing the patience to let things develop and then reaccelerating to bust into the open field, running through there maybe 80 percent just to make sure it’s there and then reaccelerating back up to 100 percent.”
Toussaint finished the season with 1,011 yards. He is the Wolverines’ first 1,000-yard rusher from the running back position since Mike Hart in 2007.