Heading into the 2012 season, the Michigan Wolverines will be without star running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, 22, as head coach Brady Hoke has suspended him indefinitely after he was arrested for DUI shortly before midnight on July 21.
Toussaint, who had just been named to the preseason watch lists for the Maxwell Award and the Doak Walker Award, may not be on the field on Sept. 1 when the Wolverines take on the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide in Arlington, Texas.
"Fitz made a poor decision and has been suspended indefinitely because of that action," Hoke said in a statement, as reported by Angelique S. Chengelis of the Detroit News. "There are expectations that come with being a football student-athlete at the University of Michigan, and those responsibilities were not met in this instance.
"We will use this as an opportunity to educate Fitz and make sure he understands the high standards that we have established within our program."
Toussaint's 1,041 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground ranked second among the 2011 Wolverines, behind quarterback Denard Robinson's 1,176 yards and 16 touchdowns. He ran for a career-high 192 yards against Illinois. Toussaint led the team with 30 rushing yards and also caught a 14-yard pass in the Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
According to Tran Longmoore of the Saline Patch, Saline (Mich.) police arrested Toussaint while working a drunk driving detail in downtown Ann Arbor after a traffic stop and an ensuing breathalyzer test indicated that his blood-alcohol content was above .08. He was taken into custody without incident and held at the Saline Police Department until sober.
This is a huge blow to the Wolverines for the coming season, yet it's a decision by Hoke that I respect and admire. Hoke made a very similar decision last year with wide receiver Darryl Stonum when Stonum was arrested for DUI. The receiver ultimately redshirted the 2011 season, was convicted of DUI, violated his probation, spent 10 days in jail, and was dismissed from the team.
I'm not aware of any previous issues with Toussaint, so hopefully this will be the eye-opening experience he needs to stop drinking and driving. Stonum continued to shoot himself in the foot, even after his team suspension, so with any luck, Toussaint will be a quicker study and get his life squared away.
While this incident is nowhere near the same galaxy of severity as what led up to Penn State getting throttled by the NCAA, it's reassuring to know that Hoke is on top of his program and making his athletes take responsibility for their behavior, regardless of that player's role on the team.
From a football standpoint, senior running back Vincent Smith appears the most likely to step into the void created by Toussaint's absence. Other running backs listed on the Wolverines' roster are redshirt freshman Justice Hayes, junior Stephen Hopkins, and sophomore Thomas Rawls.
Smith appeared in 12 games last season, starting one, and rushed for 298 yards and 2 touchdowns. Rawls appeared in 10 games and ran for 79 yards. Hopkins played in 12 games, started two of them, and ran for 43 yards.