Michigan vs. Purdue Awards

Michigan vs. Purdue Awards

November 1, 2011
Mike Martin tore through Purdue’s offensive line all day Saturday

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Fitzgerald Toussaint.  Getting only two carries against Michigan State was a tad ridiculous, but Toussaint is clearly the best pure running back on the roster.  He can hit the homerun, he can run over people, and he can make people miss.  As long as he stays healthy, the job seems to be his.  The coaches keep saying that nobody has stood out from the rest of the pack, but maybe that’s because the whole group is pretty good.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . a backup lineman.  Things are starting to get a little hairy on the offensive line.  Both Ricky Barnum and Taylor Lewan are banged up, and with the bye week in the rearview mirror, they won’t get any significant amount of time to heal up before the end of the regular season.  Michael Schofield is the top backup at guard and tackle, but the thing about Schofield is that he can’t play both guard and  tackle at the same time.  Hopefully Lewan visits Miracle Max and gets a magical healing potion soon.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Blake Countess William Campbell.  I was going to make a case for Countess, but it turns out he’s going to be the starter against Iowa, at least if reality falls in line with the depth chart that was released on Monday.  So I’ll throw my hat in the ring for Campbell.  Campbell has done a nice job this year, and while he hasn’t been a consistent playmaker, guys like Will Heininger and Nathan Brink aren’t doing anything special, either.  My starting defensive line would be Ryan Van Bergen, Mike Martin, Campbell, and Craig Roh.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . J.T. Floyd.  I know some people think Floyd is playing at a high level, but I just don’t see it.  He’s a tentative tackler and doesn’t make enough plays for my tastes.  I will admit that Floyd has improved since last season, but that’s not saying much.  Countess and Courtney Avery have surpassed him, in my opinion.

Play of the game . . . Toussaint’s 59-yard touchdown run.  He took a pitch going left, made seven Boilermakers miss, and then turned on the jets to leave everyone in the dust.  It was the type of run that Michigan fans haven’t seen from a running back in years.  Carlos Brown never made that many people miss, Brandon Minor would have lowered his shoulder and run over a couple dudes, and Mike Hart probably would have been caught from behind.  Hopefully there’s more where that came from in the weeks ahead.

MVP of the game . . . Toussaint.  Mike Martin (7 tackles, 2 sacks) is a close second, but Toussaint’s output (20 carries, 170 yards, 2 touchdowns) was the highest for a running back since Hart back in 2007.


  1. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    At the risk of redundancy, Toussaint has to block a lot better, this is Michigan.

    Although that making people miss thing is a lot of fun.

    The real nice thing to see is Campbell forcing the very occasional double team. If he'd show up and make them take him on with two guys even just a little bit more, everything will go a lot better during the toughest stretch of the season.

  2. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    Toussaint actually had several key blitz pickups against Purdue. I don't buy that he's so terrible of a blocker that he shouldn't see more PT.

  3. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Was a joy reading this..

    "It was the type of run that Michigan fans haven't seen from a running back in years. Carlos Brown never made that many people miss, Brandon Minor would have lowered his shoulder and run over a couple dudes, and Mike Hart probably would have been caught from behind."

  4. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    Couldn't agree more with the JT Floyd recommendation. He should be 3rd at best on the depth chart. He is just slow to react and doesn't tackle worth anything. He's not a Big 10 caliber DB. As a backup, maybe, as a starter, hell no.

  5. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    Nice column – agree on all points, and thanks to you I'm going to be paying more attention to how JT plays this Saturday. I have to admit that Avery, from the standpoint of a someone who needs coaching on how to understand who is playing better than whom on defense, just looks like a football player. He just has that look – body type and right level of swagger. Plus, he always seems to be around the ball. I know its an amateur analysis, but I just like having that kid on the field.

    On another note, what are your thoughts on the relationship between OL health and choice of running back? If the OL is banged up, say we have Scholfield and another backup in there, do we go with the up the middle guy (Fitz) or the speed round the corner guy (Shaw)? Or does Smith have anything to add in that situation?

  6. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    @ Anonymous 10:29 a.m.

    I think Vincent Smith needs space to operate. If you look at his body of work, the times when he makes big plays are when he gets the ball in the flat on a screen or when there are wide open holes to run through. Perhaps the only good run he has had when he had to run through traffic was against SDSU earlier this year.

    I would go with Toussaint, no matter what. If the OL is banged up, that probably means they're going to allow penetration. Toussaint is better at running through tackles and getting upfield than Shaw. Shaw might be a little overmatched if he has to dodge tacklers in the backfield.

  7. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    @ Roanman

    I'm sorry, but I always find that statement incredibly irritating. Yes, you want your RB to be a better blocker (although as pointed out Toussaint actually had several key blitz pickups against Purdue) and pick up blitzes well.

    However, and I've said this a million times, a RB's primary job is to RUN THE BALL. Plenty of great college backs have been poor blockers. I'm not saying Toussaint is Adrian Peterson, but Peterson couldn't block a lick in college. Do you think he hurt Oklahoma more than helped them? I could probably name 20 first round picks off the top of my head that weren't great blockers.

    Personally, I want a great runner, not a great blocker.

  8. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    No apology required.

    And yes I saw him pick up a blitz, but ……

    RBs gotta block just like wide receivers gotta block.

    I didn't see any because I wasn't looking for it and there was nothing as blatantly obvious as the two DBs on the ground on one of Smith's TDs earlier in the year, but I guarantee you that wide receivers were down field hitting Dbs for Toussaint on every touch he got.

    This is just football. carry out your fake, pick up that blitz, get into the defensive ends legs or that linebackers grill ….. it's all big.

    There is going to be a someday where the holes either aren't 3 yards wide, or you just aren't seeing those cuts quite as good you did last Saturday, or the rocket in your pocket isn't quite a violent as at other times when it's time to explode through that hole.

    That's when you for sure better be doing the dirty jobs or there's no reason to have you around.

    Whiz bang offensive system or not, second coming defensive coordinator or not, football is mostly only about blocking and tackling.

    If winning is the goal, everyone blocks and tackles.

    And that's before you even tippy toe up to the conversation about how we do things around here.

  9. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2011 at 6:33 PM


    Nice off-topic (and rather strange) rant that had nothing to do with your (apparently unfounded) accusation leveled at Toussaint.

  10. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2011 at 6:58 PM

    @Anon 11:21

    Most plays don't involve the running back running the ball in this offense. Against Purdue, fine, but even when you exclude pass plays, the QBs run just as often as the RBs in this offense – and more against tough teams.

    Against Michigan's 3 toughest opponents (ND, NWU, MSU) Denard had 16, 25, and 18 carries, while the RBs combined for 8, 23, and 10 carries. Right or wrong, this offense is heavily oriented toward the QB run.

    Blocking is more important than it was for typical (pro-style) offenses. Anyway, none of these guys are Barry Sanders. Fitz has separated himself as a runner (and probably overall) but who should play isn't always a black-and-white issue. If it was, Mike Cox would probably be our RB.

  11. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    Nonsense to both off-topic and unfounded, you need to get back into that remedial reading class.

    As I said earlier, I've always liked the kid, and II never advocated for sitting him down.

    But the truth is he cost us a touchdown in a blowout game because he didn't do his job.

    In doing so, he just caused us a problem going forward.

    Can we run anything like that play on the goal line in a tight game against a better defensive line? If we leave him in do we have to hand him the ball because he can't cut it at the point of attack?

    As for the notion that Adrian Peterson didn't block, Toussaint got 20 carries in four quarters, Peterson would get 20 carries in three quarters and nearly every carry in the fourth quarter.

    Our boy Fitz compares with tailbacks of that ilk only in his and our dreams.

    What the kid did was run like a deer against a secondary that was reminiscent of ours c2009-10.

    Until he becomes a much better approximation of AP he needs to block better.

  12. Comments: 21381
    Nov 01, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    Check the game highlights.

    Go to 2:49 of the highlight vid.

    Toussaint misses his block so blatantly that Beckman calls it.

    Denard has to cut up inside into pursuit and we don't score.

    If Toussaint gets into and occupies the linebacker, or at least irritates him a little, Denard is outside and gone.

    I'm guessing that Big Al, Fred jackson and in all likelihood Brady Hoke himself all made the same comment directly to Fitz that I made about him.

    "This is Michigan son, you gotta block better."

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