Michigan is preparing for the 2012 season without suspended players Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark, and head coach Brady Hoke did not disclose when either Wolverine would return.
Toussaint, who is the team's No. 1 running back, was suspended after being arrested for drunken driving. Clark, a defensive end, was disciplined after being charged with second-degree home invasion. Hoke said Monday that both players will remain sidelined indefinitely, and it looks like a certainty that both players will miss the season-opening contest against defending national champion Alabama on Sept. 1 in Arlington, TX.
Trying to beat the Crimson Tide with a full backfield would be difficult enough for the Wolverines, but the task gets even more challenging if Toussaint is sidelined. He ran for 1,041 yards last season, emerging as the top backfield option in the first year under offensive coordinator Al Borges. His productivity on the ground helped quarterback Denard Robinson, as he became a much-needed option alongside "Shoelace" in the team's prolific rushing attack. While Alabama lost a ton of talent from last year's defense, it is a unit that is still expected to be one of the better ones in the nation.
Expect sophomore Thomas Rawls to get an increased number of reps this preseason, as the 219-pounder matches up well against the Tide because of his physical nature. However, he won't provide the burst of Toussaint. Vincent Smith, Stephen Hopkins and Justice Hayes will also likely see their reps increased, but none provide the experience and production of Toussaint.
If Toussaint is sidelined, it will be interesting to see if Hoke, Borges and Co. rely even more on Robinson in the opener.
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