Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (28) holds back Michigan State safety Isaiah Lewis (9) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game.
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ANN ARBOR — A weekend scrimmage may have shed some light on what the start of the season may look like for the Michigan football team.
Yet while Wolverines coach Brady Hoke wasn’t going to concede much in regards to how his team will line up on Aug. 31 against Central Michigan, he offered this much: senior Fitzgerald Toussaint has pulled away from the remainder of the candidates at running back.
"If we're going to get technical about it," Hoke said, "Fitz would be the starter."
Hoke’s declaration of sorts came two weeks after Toussaint said he would be the starting running back for the opener, and nine months after Toussaint broke his left leg Nov. 17 against Iowa.
"The challenge for him started after the Iowa game," Hoke said Tuesday, Michigan’s first meeting with the media since Saturday night’s scrimmage at Michigan Stadium. "It was 'I want to get back, I've got to get back, how am I going to get back?' I can tell you, he was here every day. He went through rehab, and he went through whatever he needed to do, pushing himself from a standpoint of his conditioning and his mindset.
Hoke named several running backs, then ended by saying this much: "There's a clear separation that Fitz is the guy.”
When it came to discussing competition at certain positions, Hoke also said this much:
“I think we’re close, but I don’t think it’s the right time to say, ‘this is the guy.’ ”
Jack Miller is competing for the starting center spot with Graham Glasgow, and when asked if he would start at center for Michigan’s season opener, the St. John’s Jesuit graduate gave a diplomatic answer.
“We play in 11 days, and to be honest, we’ll know that [Aug. 31]. There’s a lot of competition going on,” Miller said. “To say who the starting linemen will be, I’d be wrong.
“You’ve got to focus on doing your best, no matter what group you’re running with or where you’re lined up. That’s got to be your focus. Not, ‘oh, I wish I was declared the No. 1 center.’ I don’t think like that.”
While jobs, clearly, are on the line during the preseason, August has also become a stretch of time in which players and position groups have found their playing rhythms and their preparation patterns.
With the Wolverines shifting to a pro-style offense, Miller explained that the offensive line has taken on a certain mindset for this season, one that he said was on display during Saturday’s scrimmage.
“We’re going downhill more,” Miller said. “It’s more physical, more right-at-you instead of trying-to-get-around-you type of stuff. From the get-go, we tried to change our mindset and take on more of a nasty type, moving people around and getting on top of people. We knew we were going to have to transition in this offense, and a lot of that is a mindset.”
Receiver Joe Reynolds said Saturday’s scrimmage also brought about a certain psychology within the Wolverines.
“The biggest plus is how we prepared for it,” Reynolds said. “You had the whole day to prepare like it was a night game. The attitude of the whole team was very serious, and this was for a scrimmage.
“Any time you can go scrimmage, it’s always a good indicator to give to yourself. But the biggest plus was how we prepared for it.”
INJURY UPDATE: Hoke said freshman quarterback Shane Morris was held out of Saturday’s scrimmage because of a finger injury, and senior defensive tackle Jibreel Black also sat out due to an injury and has not practiced this week. Hoke also said sophomore wide receiver Amara Darboh got “banged up” in the scrimmage and hasn’t practiced this week.