Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has been working out on his own at Schembechler Hall, trying to stay in shape while suspended from the team.
The Wolverines are about to find out if he’s ready.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Toussaint along with defensive end Frank Clark will begin practicing Monday – following a week without them on the field – after both had run-ins with the law.
”Believe me, they have paid a heavy price and will continue to pay a price for actions unbecoming of a Michigan football player,” Hoke said Sunday at media day.
Hoke, though, wouldn’t say if part of their discipline would include missing the opener against defending champion Alabama on Sept. 1 at Cowboys Stadium.
”I haven’t made that decision,” he said. ”And, I probably won’t make that decision for a while.”
Toussaint ran for 1,000-plus yards and nine touchdowns last year, projecting him the clear-cut starter this season. Clark closed his freshman season with a season-high five interceptions and an interception in the Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech, putting him in a position to earn playing time on a depleted defensive line this year.
Hoke suspended Toussaint after he was arrested in July on suspicion of drunken driving. Clark was kept away from the team while facing a charge that he took a laptop from a dorm room.
”They’re part of this football team,” Hoke said. ”They’re guys who are 18 to 23 and like some of us have not made great decisions and they’re paying for it. They’re paying the consequences of bad decisions.”
Running backs coach Fred Jackson said he’s talked to and seen Toussaint every day since he was suspended, saying he’s a ”hurt kid,” who regrets what he did.
”I spend time with him every day and encourage him because I think the kid has a great future,” Jackson said. ”He’s been told what to do and hopefully he’s followed that plan. I look forward to seeing how he looks on Monday.”
If Michigan doesn’t have Toussaint against the Crimson Tide, a trio of returning running backs and a pair of freshmen will compete for carries.
Thomas Rawls seems to be the next in line followed by Vincent Smith, Justice Hayes and newcomers Dennis Norfleet and Drake Johnson.
”I’m a physical runner,” said Rawls, who ran for two TDs in the spring game after playing sparingly last year as a freshman in part because he injured his left shoulder just before the season started. ”I run angry.”
Jackson said that’s a fair assessment from Rawls.
”When he tries to run, he tries to hurt,” Jackson said of Rawls.
Jackson, who has been a Wolverines assistant since 1992, said Norfleet and Johnson have shown flashes of promise in the limited time they’ve been able to practice because of classes.
”Norfleet is as quick as any kid ever been to Michigan – since I’ve been here,” Jackson said. ”And, Drake Johnson is running with tremendous power.”
Michigan will rely on quarterback Denard Robinson to make plays with his arm and feet this season. He’ll have to find other options in the passing game during practice the next couple of weeks without receiver Roy Roundtree, who had arthroscopic knee surgery on Friday.
The Wolverines are also down one player in the secondary because Hoke said Tamani Carter, who didn’t play last year as a freshman, has decided to leave the program.