Mike Lantry, 1972
Dennis Norfleet To Safety Bothers Me
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.