"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Yesterday Jordan Kovacs casually tossed off something about helping out Dennis Norfleet—or dennisnorfleet, whichever—and other young safeties with minutiae, and then there's a clip of a 5'6" guy wearing 26 tackling someone else:
I hate this for lots of reasons.
The chance Dennis Norfleet becomes a good safety seems minimal. There's being small, and there's being Norfleet small. Bob Sanders is the go-to-comparison here and yes okay there has been one Norfleet-sized safety in the last ten years of college football who has been really good. I can think of plenty of mini-me running backs who have been somewhere between okay and great. Garrett Wolfe, Brian Calhoun, and Jacquizz Rodgers pop immediately to mind, a guy like Vincent Smith has provided Michigan value.
There would seem to be no need to make this move unless safety depth next year is just terrifying. With Gordon/Wilson the presumed starters, the very idea they'd need to move a kid like Norfleet to D says bad things about replacing Kovacs, or that neither Furman or Robinson is viable even as a backup.
Nickel corner? There's even less of a need there. Avery returns, Delonte Holowell is locked into nickel-or-nothing, and Terry Richardson is also a nickel sort. That they'd even try this seems to indicate a need in the secondary that can only be explained by attrition or inability to play.
We're really going to make this move before even trying the guy as a change of pace/third down back? He's clearly not needed to play S for the bowl game, but he may be needed to run the ball since Rawls isn't really getting it done and Norfleet—a guy who Hoke was pushing to get on the field on offense early this year—is just going to go by the wayside to not play safety? WTF?
I mean, if we're trying to win a bowl game here Norfleet has a much better chance of helping that cause on offense than the sideline watching Kovacs and Gordon play safety.
Hoke mentioned something about burning Drake Johnson's redshirt, which he probably won't actually do, but he has put it on the table:
He offered the proposal when asked about his running backs, who will take the field Jan. 1 against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl without starter Fitz Toussaint. Sophomore Thomas Rawls, redshirt freshman Justice Hayes and senior Vincent Smith are expected to be in the rotation.
That indicates Hoke would like to see true freshman Drake Johnson get some time against the Gamecocks. Johnson, who starred at nearby Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, is redshirting this year.
"Maybe," Hoke said. "We like what Drake's done to this point."
So instead of trying out the guy that Michigan thought was good enough to play on kickoffs they're thinking about burning a redshirt for a guy who only got an EMU offer before Fred Jackson swooped in.
This could mean Norfleet isn't good at running the ball to the point where it's not even worth trying him over Rawls. I find that hard to believe after watching his high school tape, but it is a hit on any expectations you may have for the kid as a runner. The nonsensical-seeming position switch is the first step on the road to obscurity.
But more likely it means he's not good at running through unblocked guys and that he might never get a shot running behind an offensive line that could get him some cracks.
Hopefully this is dismissed as a crazy bet Fred Jackson lost by Saturday.
While I agree that this seems to be an odd decision given the situation, my excitement for Norfleet was tempered as the season went on. We heard about him making people look silly in seven on seven, but as the season progrossed I was hoping for more from his kick off returns. More often than not, he seemed to just run straight into the pile without really doing anything.
One additional observation about kickoff returns / coverage is that it seems like UM uses a rotating cast of guys on these teams, even within a single game. I would think that wouldn't be productive to consistent output.
I think expectations for Norfleet were set way too high. Everyone kept talking about how "This year you just know he's gonna run one back". It seemed like he was supposed to run for a TD every kick.
And then you look up the stats, and one of the greatest returners in UM history (Steve Breaston) only had 1 KR TD. Desmond had 2. Even Devin Hester, statistically the best return-man ever, only had 2 KR TD's in college
If you're doing nothing, how do you know when you're finished?
Yeah that's what I was getting at. Norfleet could be very good, but there were people talking about how he was gonna be better than Breaston, and how he was gonna run a KR back this year, and comparing him to those guys, even though he's just a freshman
If you're doing nothing, how do you know when you're finished?
Could it be that working with the safeties will improve his tackling/reads for the purpose of special teams as a gunner? Just a random thought...
I'm not going to get involved in this questioning the coaches stuff more than this but I think there is some aspect of the coaches seeing something within Fort Schembechler that we haven't seen which is driving this decision.
I agree that there's something fishy about this, but Hoke and Mattison seem to be doing pretty well at identifying talent on the recruiting trail, so that aspect of it makes me feel like there MUST be something that we're missing.
Also... damn you GoWings2008 that gif was in the corner of my eye while I was writing this :(
I don't like Norfleet at S either but I think this is a little (a lot) a bit of an overreaction.
Is it that strange that they're trying a guy out at a different position during bowl practice than practicing him at a position he wasn't already getting PT?
Maybe, but it's not THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD as it's made out to be here. Norfleet didn't get much time when Toussaint was out during the Ohio game, didn't get much PT all year outside of returns, what makes you think we're 'taking away' from the offensive side of the ball in the bowl game?
It's like freaking out in spring practice because Gardner couldn't hit a WR to save his life and Bolden was going to be our starting MLB because Demens sucked. You are better than this type of reaction.
Shouldn't your Gardner example make you feel worse about this? This is the offense staff that looked at Bellomy and said "yep, you're ready" and moved Gardner to WR. Now I suppose they could have thought that the season was fucked if Denard went down and decided we needed more help at WR. But given that Gardner was not the game changer at WR, Bellomy was terrible (in a hostile enviornment) at QB, and Gardner was pretty damn good at QB, crazy position switches with potential playmakers from the offensive staff now gets a sideways "are you sure?" look from me.
This staff also made a nice move to start Kwiatkowski as our blocking TE and put Quentin Washington in the right place to succeed in our 1-tech spot when nobody on here projected him at NT before.* Anecdotal evidence isn't really the greatest thing to use because we can both pull some good moves and bad moves by the coaching staff.
Anyway, I wasn't talking about the coaching staff's ability to evaluate, I was assessing Brian's (and to a greater extent, the community's) reaction to a freshman position move during bowl practice. My point in bringing up Gardner is that we all saw how terrible he was in the spring game. The spring game. The practice scrimmage with 75% of the scholarship roster and our team playing both sides in not an official game capacity. And the general overreaction on April 15: Gardner has no future as our QB.
Norfleet is practicing safety in bowl practice. The same bowl practice Hoke spends lining up the freshman across from each other doing technique drills for the first week straight.
TL; DR: I'm just saying the reaction is over-the-top for switching a non-starter that can still play his current position while practicing the new one. Didn't mean to throw off the scent by an anecdote or two.
*I don't really put any weight into the internet argument of "should the coaches have prepped Gardner for Nebraska" because none of the MGo users (I am aware of) attend practice and can really evaluate that. What we see which is like 5% of the actual on-field time the coaches see, not counting video, injury, etc., and of that time, Bellomy played in 60% of our offensive snaps in 1/12th of our season. We don't know shit and people claiming to are probably worse.
Bellomy might have been great in practice and the coaches did the best with the info they knew or he might have sucked and the coaches blew that decision (I also want to know what is wrong with Bellomy and why the coaches are being so crazy about discussing his status/injury before I pass judgement on his abilities at length, which some people have done with things like arm strength "which should be obvious in practice', to quote a former thread). Just like college basketball so far, small sample size definitely applies to Bellomy. Gardner didn't look like Michigan's starting QB in his spot duty last year, either.
I also do not blame just Borges or just the offensive staff for Gardner - Hoke gets full credit or blame. QB is the most important position and HC makes that final call. If we're going to blame the staff for bad calls, gotta give them the good ones like QW.
But definitely not good by any means. A little research shows Norfleet with a little over a 23 yd average on returns, which appears to be slightly over the average across the NCAA. IF, by some stretch of the imagniation, the blocking was solid...not good, but consistent...then his average I would guess be in the upper 25% of the NCAA. If that happens, we're not even having this discussion.
“If worms had machine guns, birds would be afraid of 'em.”
What are you saying? The discussion that you can't play safety and return kickoffs?
Regardless, I'm saying Norfleet wasn't getting running back carries before OR after Toussaint's injury, we have/are recruiting a fuckton of power backs, especially if we land Green, and it's a bowl practice. Try him out at safety, guy is a sick point guard and is obviously an athlete, let him go at it. Let's not spend all day fretting about the guy that wasn't getting PT switching to a new position during bowl practice.
Don't get me wrong - I don't mind the analysis by Brian or discussion among the group. Just seemed a little more emotional than a typical position analysis.
I'm guessing you are thinking about Fargas because he was a RB recruit who unsuccessfully moved to safety. But before we rewrite history and have Henson putting Brady on the bench and what not let's review what happened with Fargas.
In 1998, he had a very successful freshman year at RB (for the time) and was named one of SI's 10 best freshmen. In 1999 he broke his leg horribly. When he returned in 2000 he had fallen on the depth chart behind--at the very least--Anthony Thomas. He may have stayed and battled with Chris Perry and BJ Askew--both of whom had very successful Michigan careers. Maybe his leg wasn't fully healed. Maybe he wanted to be the starter sooner. Who knows.
But this is nothing like Norfleet who is a complete unknown at both RB and safety because WE haven't seen him play much of either.
I say WE because while WE haven't seen him play either position much, THE COACHES have.
No one really doubted Fargas. He just got stuck behind some really good players.
Is it possible that Michigan puts additional defensive backs in its secondary in order to make Gardner and Robinson make more difficult decisions in the coaching game?
Is it possible that Norfleet is asked to run through a couple of reps at safety in order to improve his understanding of the offense (surely unorthodox, but perhaps it would help his route recognition and understanding of the blocking scheme how it helped Gardner at WR) and to keep him active while other RBs get the lion's share of carries?
There - two non-nuclear reasons why Norfleet might have repped at safety during one moment of one practice.
:shocked_look: Noooooo. Over reaction? On MGoBlog? GTFO.
"the Spirit of Michigan...is based on a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways....and a conviction that nowhere is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours" - Fielding Yost
Especially if he isn't expected to win a starting safety spot next year, I would love to see Furman get a crack at RB. His size/speed and high school numbers lead me to believe he can't be any worse than the non-Fitz options available at the moment.
There is no way in hell Hoke is burning Drake Johnson's redshirt for the bowl game. He only opined that it would be nice if players could play in bowl games without burning their redshirt and that Drake might play if that were the case.
Hm, let's see. We've got a redshirt freshman in Justice Hayes, who is considered to be a third down-type back with speed to the outside and not much ability to break tackles. And we've got true freshman Dennis Norfleet, who is considered to be a third down-type back with speed to the outside and not much ability to break tackles.
Two guys with the same general skill set in the same class.
I've got an idea: Let's keep them at the same position so one can always be blocking the other from playing time, and then they'll both graduate together and *POOF* be gone forever.
I'm not saying this is what the coaches are thinking, but there is a reason that some people were like "WTF?" when we signed Dennis Norfleet and Fred Jackson immediately said he didn't think Norfleet would ever be a feature back.
As long as the kid can still return kicks and punts while playing safety, I don't really care whether he plays offense or defense. There are numerous guys who never made much of an impact on one side of the ball (Mel Gray, Dante Hall, Eddie Drummond, etc.) but were very valuable as returners. It's quite possible that Norfleet could be one of those types of players.
There's a decent chance Norfleet becomes a substantially better 3rd down option than Hayes. The chances he becomes one of our two best safties is essentially zero.
Fleet is on the team to be a return specialist. He weighs 161 lbs. To have any chance of seeing the field on defense he'd have to add so much weight it would compromise his athleticism for returns. You can't play safety in the Big Ten at 5'7" 175.
Maybe he has mad ball skillz. Maybe Justice Hayes (who I don't remember playing defense in high school, but maybe he did) can't tackle worth a lick.
I'm not convined that Norfleet can't make an impact on defense. Maybe he won't be the #2 safety at any point, but maybe he can be #3. Maybe he's 5'8" or 5'9" now and packing on some weight. There are several examples of short-ish safeties being successful (Bob Sanders, Tyrone Carter, Javier Arenas, etc.).
I don't know the answer. All I'm saying is there are examples of success from the past, there are other options at RB in the same class, Norfleet has experience playing defense in high school, and he was mainly brought in to return kicks/punts. Those aforementioned things make me shrug my shoulders about this, if it's indeed a thing. It's not anything that we should be getting worked up about, in my opinion.
Just to point it out, while Norfleet has the KR job locked down fairly well, that doesn't mean he automatically becomes the best RB ever. It could be Hayes and Houma both have speed and are appearing as more attractive backfield options due to their ability to block, etc. In additional we have a couple more backs coming into play via recruitment or off of redshirt.
As for the safety thing, there are a lot of guys in the 5' 9" range that have had good careers as coverage safeties. If Norfleet puts on an inch or two via growth spurt, he's right there and he already has the muscle mass.
Assuming Fitx returns next year, we'll have at least 6 RBs on the rosters (perhaps 7 as we seem to want to add one more). Plus three fullbacks. Sooner or later guys who want PT are going to have to try out at other spots. As Magnus mentions this could also be nothing more than a move to escape the fate of Darnell Hood.
This is not really a direct rebuttal of Brian's post, but here are my thoughts on why this doesn't bother me:
1. Dennis Norfleet may not be very good at running back.
I like fleet, and I think that he has potential, based upon his speed, but being fast does not necessarily equate to being a good college running back. Oftentimes, neither does being a good HS running back. I think that we can all agree that our stable of RBs this past year is very week. What does it tell us if Fleet could barely earn any carries this year, when we were desparate for a productive RB? Perhaps he fumbles because of smaller hands. Perhaps he has poor vision (which may be the case, as he does not appear to always make the correct move on returns). Perhaps he goes down easily on first contact.
Whatever the reason, the coaches who watch him day in and day out may not believe that he is a capable college RB. Note: this is not really a "trust the coaches on everything" argument. Sure, coaches can and should be second guessed, and often make mistakes. But when numerous coaches - Borges, Hoke, Jackson and Mattison, to name a few, all conclude that he doesn't offer an upgrade over V. Smith or Rawls eeking out 1.5 yards, perhaps there is a reason.
2. Norfleet may be a good RB, but he does not fit the system that the coaches desire to run.
Borges and company have stated repeatedly that we are going to a pro-style, manball attack starting next season. They also clearly have a desire for a big, thumping Chris Perry, A-Train type of back. This is not Fleet. Does that mean that he cannot be successful? No, but if he is going to only see 1-3 plays per game as a change of pace back, perhaps his skill set is better used elsewhere where he may see the field. He is already a special teams regular contributor.
Before someone says that the coaches should adopt the scheme to the talent, keep in mind that we are talking about a 4th string RB. You adopt your scheme to Denard or Devin. you don't adopt your scheme just for Norfleet.
2 seconds of film and an offhand comment. Considering we had a different center playing most of spring and fall ball, this could mean next to nothing (you do try guys out at different positions to see how they'd do without intentions of moving them...that's what extra practice is for). But FREAK OUT is the default mode around here. Sometimes I don't think football fans read this site; it's more like a gossip fueled circle like this:
Given that we knew Devin's foot and/or ankle got a little banged-up during the Ohio game, did anyone else think he looked fairly uncomfortable running at about 1:00 in the video? Here's hoping that he feels a lot better by Jan 1.
Maybe Brian, South Carolina, etc. are just being punk'd by Hoke & Co. Seriously, when does Hoke ever give honest information about who is hurt, who's going to start, who's going to play what position, etc. until about 3 seconds before the game starts?
I have no idea what is going on, if anything is going on. I think that is true of everyone. If moving Norfleet to safety doesn't make sense, maybe it won't happen. Kovacs' comments are intriguing, but I think we are jumping the gun on this a bit.
Slot-mites aren't really a MANBALL type thing. So no, probably not going to happen.
But the question (for someone who knows more about football than me) is why? Why couldn't we integrate the dreaded bubble screen into a MANBALL offense? I could be very mistaken, but didn't we run quite a few bubbles in the later Carr era, even if half of them were DeBord putting Breaston 1-on1 with a corner and hoping he'd make a guy miss?
"The straightest line from A to B is straight: From A to B"
"When you have Denard Robinson, you can have everything"
That's just the thing. There's always a place for playmakers on offense, no matter what their skill set is. A good OC adjusts the plays and calls to maximize the potential of their weapons. A lot of MANBALL teams do this as a change of pace to their base offenses. I think we should to. Creativity is needed to make an offense elite.
And that's the odd thing about Borges, because he's known for tinkering with an offense and not being afraid to try new things. Given that, I don't understand his aversion to bubble screens to get his slot mites out on the edge quickly.
"The straightest line from A to B is straight: From A to B"
"When you have Denard Robinson, you can have everything"