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Wednesday, October 10, 2012
WolverineNation mailbag

By Chantel Jennings

Fitzgerald Toussaint
Fitzgerald Toussaint must re-emerge if the Wolverines are to achieve their goals.
Michigan football started its Big Ten season with a bang. The basketball team starts practice Friday. And recruiting is, well, recruiting is an all-day, every-day type of thing. But there's a ton to talk about in the realm of Michigan sports, so let's get to it.

We love hearing from our readers so make sure you keep sending mailbag questions in. Next week, Mike will be taking care of it though, so tweet your questions to him at @mikerothstein or email him at michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com.

Now, on to our questions…

1.) Jeffrey G., Saline, Mich: If Fitzgerald Toussaint doesn't get going soon, how long can Michigan keep winning?

A: That's a really good question. A big key to the Wolverines winning this season will be the non-Denard run game. They have quite a few games coming up against teams that stopped Denard Robinson last year, so they'll know how to do it this year, too. Personnel might have changed, but the approach probably won't. Against Michigan State, Robinson gained only 42 yards. Against Nebraska, he picked up only 83 yards. And against Ohio State, Robinson rushed for 170 yards, but I assume Urban Meyer will have some sort of defense planned for that this year. Having a tandem of possible running threats is so, so important, and the Wolverines have stressed it a lot this year. Personally, I don't see how Michigan can win the Big Ten title (or even get to the championship game for that matter) if Robinson continues to be the only player who rushes well. 2.) Matt Shaw via Twitter: Will Glenn Robinson or Mitch McGary have a higher likelihood of starting?

A: If we're talking the first game of the season, I'm going to say Robinson. I think even though Michigan now has options to run offenses with two big men, I really do believe the Wolverines will stick with a guard-heavy offense, which Robinson will help in. Robinson can kind of be a Zack Novak-like rebounder and he can be an outside threat like Stu Douglass was (on his best days). On top of that, he can create in the open floor. He's such a weapon and I could really see him grabbing a starting spot. As the Wolverines get deeper into the Big Ten season and they're facing teams with bigger players and they're doing more of a personnel/size matchup, I wouldn't be surprised to see McGary get some starts.

3.) Jimmy, Ann Arbor: Despite the injuries in the secondary, how do you account for Michigan having the seventh-best pass defense in the nation?

A: I hate to burst any kind of bubble, but it's not just the Michigan defense's job well done here. You have to consider who they played. Against Alabama, the Tide chose to run a bit more than they threw (though, they threw plenty as well). Air Force is a run-heavy team. Purdue's quarterback play wasn't the best Michigan will face this season. So yes, Michigan has been able to stop the pass, but consider who the Wolverines have played.

But, let's look at the defense a bit, too. I will give them some of the credit, don't worry. For the most part, their fundamentals have been pretty good (and when they've been bad, they've been really, obviously bad). But with Greg Mattison running a team's D, I have to imagine that there's just a wealth of knowledge being given at all times. And I think there's something to be said for the "expectation of the position" at Michigan. Players buy into that and whether it's a new kid like Courtney Avery or a veteran like Jordan Kovacs, they've been playing to a universally expected level, not to what they personally think they could or should be. On top of that, with the improvements of the linebackers and D-line, Michigan’s secondary has been targeted less and able to make the stops they need to make. They've made crazy leaps since Alabama, if they continue to make that kind of progress, no matter what kind of offenses they play, they could remain a top-15 pass defense team through the Big Ten season.