ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- A pair of freshmen tailbacks put the Michigan's rushing total in the black for the first time in three weeks.
But coach Brady Hoke isn't ready to take the starter label from fifth-year senior Fitz Toussaint just yet. The Wolverines (7-3, 3-3 Big Ten) travel to Iowa (6-4, 3-3) on Saturday.
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"We'll see how we shake out at the end of the week with who will be the first back in," Hoke said Monday. "I think we'll have pretty good decision to make at the end of the week."
Toussaint, who sat out last week after being limited in practice due to a concussion, is listed as the starter on the depth chart released by the school on Monday. Hoke said freshmen Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith were impressive in a 27-19, triple-overtime win at Northwestern last Saturday, combining for 125 yards on 27 carries.
That the Wolverines ended up with positive rushing yards was an improvement compared to their previous two losses. Quarterback Devin Gardner was sacked 14 times against Michigan State and Nebraska, contributing heavily to the team moving backward 69 yards on the ground. Toussaint wasn't effective either. He rushed 17 times for 26 yards.
Toussaint was healthy enough to play against Northwestern, but Hoke said he held him out of the game because he had missed too much practice time. Toussaint isn't expected to miss practice this week.
Asked if the performance by the seldom-used freshmen left them pushing for more playing time, Hoke said every position has constant competition, but added: "You've got to give (the freshmen) credit though for how they played."
Both Hoke and senior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan said some of the credit belonged to improved offensive line play, particularly by the three first-year starters at the interior line spots.
"The running backs played well, but we also gave them holes to run through," Lewan said. Added Hoke: "I think the three guys inside (freshman Kyle Bosch, sophomore Graham Glasgow and Erik Magnuson) really established the line of scrimmage."
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Toussaint was recruited by former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez to fit his read-option offense. He had his best season in 2011, rushing for more than 1,000 yards while Hoke and his staff used a hybrid attack with returning quarterback Denard Robinson.
He gained 514 yards through 10 games of 2012 before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Iowa. In nine starts this season, he gained 601 yards.
Physically, Green (5-11, 240) and Smith (5-11, 224) seem better suited for the downhill running attack that Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges have said they want. Hoke wasn't willing to give the bigger-bodied youngsters the edge in that category, however.
"Fitz has done so good in some of those things over the last three years," he said. "There's a fit for all three of them."