Dennis Norfleet To Safety Bothers Me Comment Count

Brian December 11th, 2012 at 1:12 PM

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.



December 11th, 2012 at 1:21 PM ^

I am going to have to assume one of the division one coaches at the University of Michigan thinks there is a chance that Norfleet can be productive at Safety.  We won't know until we actually see some type of production.  I am going to give our division 1 coaches the benefit of the doubt that they know what they are doing.

His Dudeness

December 11th, 2012 at 1:36 PM ^

Remember that one time that we lost our entire season because our coaching staff thought Bellomy was ready to do anything at all with the football in his hands instead of letting our former 5 star QB turned mediocre WR have a go at it? Yea I don't either because it apparently never happened and our coaching staff never does anything stupid as all fucking hell.


December 11th, 2012 at 1:40 PM ^

Right. Use one bad personnel decision and ignore the numerous good personnel decisions Mattison has made in his long and decorated tenure. That's convincing as well. Or, perhaps as you say, "stupid as all fucking hell." The whole Bellomy thing was a disaster, but let's not use one outcome to interpret all personnel decisions our coaches make - especially when different coaches are making them. I would tend to side with giving Mattison the benefit of the doubt here.


December 11th, 2012 at 1:51 PM ^

Missing the point? I dont think so. It was quite fair and warrented to criticize the coaching staff for the Bellomy thing. And for various other things, such as 4th down calls, clock management, the whole OSU 2nd half. and so on. I dont think anyone thinks this coaching staff is above reproach. But some issues are just too early, too questionably constructed, to use build a case against the coaches; let the issue mature, find 'better' facts, then make the case. Until then, a guy like Mattison deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Monocle Smile

December 11th, 2012 at 1:56 PM ^

Brian's post is mostly about how this move probably says bad things about either Norfleet or other parts of the team; he barely criticizes the coaches at all. Yet WolvinLA2 and TwoFiveAD both got indignant as if these coaches are INDEED above reproach (and there ARE plenty of users who feel this way).

His Dudeness responded for the sole purpose of pointing out the stupidity of that line of reasoning even though the other two were fighting straw men.


December 11th, 2012 at 2:11 PM ^

At no point did I say the coaches are above reproach. But to the people who are saying, "why in the hell would we do something like this?" I would suggest that there's information out there that the coaches know and we do not. The coaches make bad decisions sometimes, no doubt about it.

But when something unconventional like this position switch happens, I would suggest the initial reaction not be to blame the coaches, but to realize there's probably more to this story.


December 11th, 2012 at 2:35 PM ^

These coaches have demonstrated a consistent size-bias that is highly questionable.  They moved Gardner to WR in part because they don't trust Dileo, Gallon, Roundtree to be the primary WR targets - that decison arguably cost us the Nebraska game and conference championship shot.  They've favored a mediocre back like Rawls, presumably because he's beefy.  They've recruited bigger than typical guys along the trenches.  Some of the Safeties they recruited are players that are nearly LB-sized.   Many of the WRs look like they could be TEs in the NFL.  Agree or disagree, the coaches clearly have a bias towards size. 

From the outset, they viewed Norfleet as a specialist and not an option for an every-down back. They barely recruited the kid even though he's a local 4-star with exceptional character and explosive skill. This despite the fact that many mini-backs have proven to be excellent players (e.g., Sproles, the Rogers brothers at Oregon State, Roy Finch, LaMichael James, and many many more.) 

RB is just a weird position to have this sort of bias.  Height doesn't help you at RB but they've almost exclusively focused on guys who are tall.  Norfleet may need to work on everything Vincent Smith does well, but it's clear he's one of the few explosive options we have (now, had) in the backfield.

Our coaches are very good, but they are clearly very stubborn-minded about a few things and one of them seems to be RB size.  It makes no sense.


Space Coyote

December 11th, 2012 at 2:48 PM ^

when they moved Vince Smith to safety because he's small. And then they forced Denard to play corner so they could put the taller DG in at QB.

On second thought, the first paragraph of your post is idiotic. Have you thought that maybe, while Rawls isn't that good, that he's better at this point than others at RB, he's not just more "beefy". At the time DG moved to WR he was Michigan's best WR and possibly the third string QB because of what the coaches saw in the Spring Game and in practice. I know to my eyes Bellomy and DG looked about equal after the Spring Game.

Also, just because Norfleet is small doesn't mean he has the same skill set as Smith. He'll probably never be a very good blocker. Yes, you can use him in other ways and I think he had more upside at RB/slot than at safety, but none of the things you say make a whole lot of sense in the grand scheme of things.


December 11th, 2012 at 3:01 PM ^

You're right, because they don't simply line the players up by height that invalidates my point entirely.

Yes, I have thought that Rawls might be the best option at RB -- then I watched him play football.

Gardner has never and will never be Michigan's best WR.  He doesn't run good routes, he doesn't have good hands, and he doesn't block.  Bellomy was CLEARLY inferior to Gardner in terms of talent and he didn't have the experience to overcome that, so the fact that you thought Gardner was 3rd string is meaningless.

I didn't say Norfleet had the same skillset as Smith.  I said the opposite.  Norfleet needs to work on the things that Smith is great at.  Smith isn't elusive with the ball - Norfleet is.

Look at who the coaches are recruiting and they're intentions and preferences become very obvious.


December 11th, 2012 at 3:33 PM ^

This site endorsed the move, taking the risk, and thought Gardner was pretty awful...all the up past his first game as full time starter. (It took at least 2 games for Brian to warm up to him as QB).

Yet this is the same analysis that we're taking "Norfleet move (if it actually happens) bad!" as the TRUTH.


December 11th, 2012 at 4:33 PM ^

None of this has much to do with my point which was that the coaches want bigger players at WR, but one of the many positions/examples where this is true.  Look at the WR recruiting for Rodriguez and Hoke and tell me that isn't true.

Mgoblog did endorse the Gardner move -- Doesn't mean it was the right call.  Brian is great but he is also not infrequently wrong.  Brian's whole argument was based on "we're screwed without Denard anyway", which may be right against elite teams, but not for mediocre/bad opponents.

The coaches took a risk - a risk that Gardner's value at WR was worth the downgrade if/when Denard got hurt.  It didn't work out - Gardner wasn't good at WR (he was below average in terms of productivity per target and his role was marginalized after a few games, even before the switch back to QB), and the dropoff from Denard to Bellomy was not only enormous but happened to come at perhaps the most important game of the season.

My opinion is that the plan was always to move Devin back to QB if Denard got hurt, but short-term (i.e., in-game) they were willing to risk it with Bellomy.

Devin's just not a WR - he's not. He is a good athlete but he doesn't have the positional skills or know-how to be very effective there on a consistent basis.  The coaches see the athleticism and the body and have preconceptions about what they think.  IMO, it's detrimental to the team.  Maybe not in the long-run when they have the dudes they want, but right now, with mostly Rodriguez's players, they're making some mistakes.



December 11th, 2012 at 3:09 PM ^

Just to your one small point. I have read many posts here that stated how Bellomy looked better than Gardner, but I never saw that. In the spring game Bellomy's success was on short dump off passes that Gardner never attempted. The spring game said more about how good our defense and how bad our offensive line was than how good our qbs were.

The thing that made me think Gardner was always going to be better than Bellomy and that he was going to the the 2013 starter over both Morris and Bellomy (beyond his 4th year status and recruiting hype) was that he had a very good arm, stood tall in the pocket, had supreme confidence, threw a nice deep ball and was a superior athlete. And I felt that before Morris had mono or Bellomy played against Nebraska.

But I don't blame the coaches for using Gardner as a wide receiver. He was a good one, possibly the best on the team and was getting better. The thing that did really bother me was that they said in August and early Sept that he was still the #2 QB and that he was splitting reps at qb and receiver. During the Illinois, game Denard got hurt and Bellomy proved he clearly was not ready to play. Then after the Nebraska game they said that Gardner wasn't getting reps at QB so he couldn't come in.

In the Nebraska game, it was too late. We were screwed. The coaching malpractice was not getting Gardner enough reps to let him play QB in a pinch when they knew he was better than Bellomy and that Denard was fragile.


December 11th, 2012 at 4:47 PM ^

Previously, there was a vast overreaction to the Spring Game and people wanted Denard to move to WR (even though he hadn't played it) in favor of Devin.

Then, Bellomy plays OK in the spring game and people want Devin to move to WR.

Seems like a repeat of reading way too much out of Spring Games, which are a glorified practice and far more situational, instructive, and limited than games.

Gardner was always going to be the 2013 star, if for no other reason than his ability to scramble, which is going to be of paramount improvement given that the 2013 OL is very likely to struggle in pass protection.

Disagree with Gardner being good at WR.  He wasn't good and he wasn't going to get better without A LOT more work.  Its a position he never played - you don't just develop instincts and the refined skillsets overnight.  Devin's a QB.


December 11th, 2012 at 5:39 PM ^

You'll notice that step #2 involves bringing in one OR TWO quarterbacks to see if they could handle being the backup.  Michigan did NOT bring in a freshman quarterback in 2012, and you'll also find that I was not impressed by Bellomy in the spring game.

Third stringer Russell Bellomy looked like what we've been expecting - a game manager type who can scramble a little and make check-down throws, but he seems to lack the requisite arm strength for pushing the ball downfield.…

Without step #2, you don't get to step #3.  Michigan had no viable backup.  As such, I was never in support of moving Denard to wide receiver.


December 11th, 2012 at 6:05 PM ^

it wasn't JUST idiots who entertained the idea of moving Denard and/or Devin.  The coaches did it as well, in packages or full-time.  They are bad decisions but ones that non-idiots would make (and apparently, repeat.)  It's clear these coaches aren't as worried about QB depth as many fans are.

You thought Gardner was a better fit at QB and Michigan did recruit a QB in the '11 class (Bellomy).  You thought Michigan should have recruited more, ok, but Denards move was only "partially dependent" on QB alternatives.  Regardless, we're talking about what people think SHOULD happen, conditional or not, for you - that included moving Denard.  I don't think having 2 Bellomys rather than 1 changes the point of your view at the time.

You're right a lot - but in that case you were wrong.  Good call on Bellomy though.  I thought he'd be better than he showed against Nebraska and I think he'll continue to improve.  He's young.


December 11th, 2012 at 6:23 PM ^

If somebody makes an "if/then" statement and the "if" part doesn't happen, then the "then" part doesn't really matter.

If I babysit your kids, then you should give me $20.  I didn't babysit your kids, so you don't owe me $20.

You're right that having two Bellomys wouldn't have changed my opinion.  Because a second Bellomy (if he's an exact replica) wouldn't have been a capable backup.  That was my stipulation, that Michigan should see if a freshman "is capable of being the backup."  The freshman (Bellomy) wasn't ready.

If "Move Denard to WR or RB" was #2 on my list of steps, then you might have a point.


December 11th, 2012 at 7:03 PM ^

You think your babysitting service is worth $20.  Others might disagree.  And even if you don't babysit them, it's clear what your opinion re: your babysitting service is.  You think it's valuable.

The direction you thought Michigan should pursue included moving Denard Robinson away from QB.  You may have had your qualifiers (two QB recruits instead of one, more practive for Gardner, whatever), but you thought that was the best path.


December 11th, 2012 at 3:29 PM ^

This stuff is always hilarious. Go back and look in season if anyone had the least bit of question on anything the PREVIOUS staff did.  They got hammered too. And back when negs were negs and they MEANT something. 

Moral of the story? We like the guys who coach for our team, and some people are going to be defensive about them. Doesn't mean you can't offer criticism.  Just don't act like there's been some shift in the globe from "how it was before."  Which was the same. With the added editorial bent of the site adding to the wrist slapping.


December 11th, 2012 at 2:35 PM ^

I, for one, do believe its possible and acceptable to critique while still being supportive.  And lets put this into context shall we?  Its not like the staff is installing the 3-3-5 defense or trading the entire O line for the D line...its one player who's played one season.  But it seems as though that the more people protest other people's criticisms, the louder everyone gets...figuratively speaking.

No meme or gif from me for a while.  I'm self-imposing sanctions for 72 hours. 


December 11th, 2012 at 2:02 PM ^

If Mattison saw Norfleet throughout the season and said "I need the man on defense", I would worry much less about it.  But couldn't also be just as plausible that Borges says "he can't seem to run over unblocked middle-linebackers.  I don't know what to do with him?"  I suppose we'll never know the exact thought process, and that in three years we'll look back at this thead and call half of the people stupid, but one side of the offense coaching staff has vastly exceeded expectations and has earned a lot of leeway with personel decisions.  The other, not as much at this point.


December 11th, 2012 at 2:15 PM ^

I wouldn't even respond to "his dudeness".  He has also stated that Rich Rodriguez did a good job while head coach at Michigan and that Lloyd Carr was the reason he didn't win more games.  It had nothing to do with his offense only averaging 16 points a game against ranked teams.  It had nothing to do with the worst defense in the history of Michigan football.  It was Lloyd Carrs fault.


December 11th, 2012 at 2:14 PM ^

We didn't "lose our entire season" because of that one personnel decision.  That was a close game WITH Denard Robinson in there, and there's no guarantee that Devin Gardner would have been able to pull it out, either.

Maybe we'd be 9-3 in the regular season and playing Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, but who knows if we would have beaten Wisconsin?  That's probably a toss-up, too.  So maybe we're 9-4 right now if Gardner had been ready, maybe 10-3.

Or maybe we'd still be 8-4.

His Dudeness

December 11th, 2012 at 2:45 PM ^

To be perfectly honest with you I hate that this staff has already "earned the right" to not be questioned by most of the fan base. News flash: Hoke and his staff haven't won shit here YET. I hope they do, but they haven't yet.

Secondly I HATE that Magnus is seen as some sort of expert on anything by the average MGoUser.

He has a blog? Check.

He has youtube and a Rivals/Scout account? Check

He has access? Nope

He has expertise? Nope

Some how that gives him the right to talk down our recruits and pipe in on all things recruiting. That bothers me.