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Thursday, October 11, 2012
WolverineNation Roundtable

By WolverineNation Staff

Each week, the WolverineNation staff picks three issues around Michigan sports and chats about them in the WolverineNation roundtable.

With basketball starting up this week and football in the middle of the season, our staff takes on the topics of the day.

1. Michigan's running backs have struggled this season and Brady Hoke is sticking with Fitzgerald Toussaint as his starter. What would you do in this situation?

Chantel Jennings: I think I'd stick with Toussaint. No, he hasn't gotten going this season, but I don't think that means he won't. Thomas Rawls displayed some capabilities against Purdue in the later minutes, but Toussaint has the Big Ten experience that Rawls lacks. I think in this situation, with a conference game already under the Wolverines' belt and Nebraska and Ohio State on the road, experience will trump sheer "angry running" when push comes to shove.

Michael Rothstein: Stick with Toussaint, but not for the reason you’d think. If what Michigan’s coaches have been saying is accurate and teams are keying on Toussaint, which would open up Denard Robinson, then if you’re the Wolverines you take that. Replacing him with Rawls might actually hurt that since teams then would focus on Robinson and then you have to hope Rawls is good. The other reason is so much of this season has mirrored last season in terms of improvement, especially defensively. Well, at this point last season, Toussaint was still finding his rhythm, too. I think you give him at least one more week to look for it before switching it up.

Tom VanHaaren: It's hard to answer without seeing what practice looks like, really. The offensive line has admitted that part of it is their issue, which I think is true. I don't think you can just abandon a guy that had 1,000 yards rushing last season. He needs to get it going, but I'm not sure I would bench him yet. If you look at his stats from last season it took Fitz quite a few games to get going, so I would still go with him.

2. Basketball practice kicks off Friday and the Wolverines are expected to be among the best teams in the country. Who is the one player that ends up being the key to the Wolverines' success this year?

Jennings: Trey Burke. The offense is going to flow through him on nearly every single play and as long as he doesn't try to do too much, I think he'll be the key.

Rothstein: Jordan Morgan. The redshirt junior is going to have to be a leader this season and while Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. will likely do the bulk of the scoring, he will need to have an interior presence for Michigan to truly be the team it has the potential to be.

VanHaaren: Hardaway Jr. With a lot of young players on the team now, I think Hardaway is going to need to be one of the veteran leaders. He will probably be called up to handle a decent amount of the scoring, and he must be more consistent this season.

3. Right now, five games into the season, who has been the biggest surprise on this Michigan team for you so far?

Jennings: Elliott Mealer at center. No one expected him to be there (mainly because he was projected at left guard all preseason), but he has been a solid force up front. No, he's not David Molk, but he has filled the shoes well. The chemistry between him and Robinson has seemed nearly perfect. With his inexperience on the line I'm sure opponents are targeting him and he hasn't let anyone get through.

Rothstein: Quinton Washington and it might not be close. This is a guy who had three tackles coming into the season, had spent time on offense early in his career and even at the start of fall camp was an unlikely contributor, let alone starter. Now, he’s improving by the game and has been someone the coaches continually point out in a positive way. From where he started to where he is now, with 13 tackles in five games, that’s extremely surprising to me.

VanHaaren: It has to be freshman tight end Devin Funchess. I knew that Funchess was going to be good from watching him in high school, but he has made some big plays very early in his career. To be able to step in right away and become a big target for Denard Robinson, that's pretty impressive. He's a solid option already and is going to be a big part of the offense going forward if he keeps this up.