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 4:59 PM ^

But also, His Dudeness is the worst arguer ever.  He makes no points, but instead cusses and makes personal attacks.  If I didn't know he went to college I would think he was 15 years old. 

Literally half of his posts are him ripping on other posters or calling Al Borges fat.  He makes the rest of us look bad; I wish he were born a Spartan fan. 

turd ferguson

December 11th, 2012 at 11:51 PM ^

I don't know if this makes sense, but of all the people in the world who I have no idea what they look like (because I've never met them, seen them on television, etc.), His Dudeness is probably the one I dislike the most.  The fat jokes (so witty), personal attacks, and general idiocy are bad.  His "haha, told you so; who cares about the victims?" stuff after the Colorado theater shooting was probably the worst thing I've ever seen on this site.


December 11th, 2012 at 3:23 PM ^

Regardless of your hatred toward me, I never said that Hoke is beyond reproach.  All I said, really, is that you're taking a giant leap when you say that Bellomy's insertion into the Nebraska game cost us the Big Ten championship.  Despite being blown out in the Big Ten championship game, Nebraska was a pretty decent team and Michigan's running backs ran 19 times for 32 yards in that game.  Denard had 10 carries for 46 yards and was 6/11 for 55 yards through the air prior to getting injured.  It was a close game regardless, but our starting QB couldn't do many good things, so it's no guarantee that our backup (Gardner, in this hypothetical) could have done anything, either.

Maybe Michigan was just destined to lose that game.


December 11th, 2012 at 5:26 PM ^

devin gardner would have easily done better than what bellomy showed.  I dont buy this crap that he was not prepared bc he was a wr in the offense and knew the play calls and he was a qb last year in the exact same offense.  i would have taken my chances on having gardner in there with a small package of 10 plays that he is comfortable with than have bellomy in there throwing ducks not even 5 yards in front of him.  it was obvious he wasnt ready for that situation and atmosphere. gardner had played in all types at that point at wr and qb.  im not guaranteeing it but dont you wish we at least could have had a chance.  our defense was shutting down their offense until they got worn out in the 4th from lack of offensive ball control


December 11th, 2012 at 5:43 PM ^

Yes, I wish Gardner would have had a chance.  And as I've said before in this thread, a) the starter wasn't doing much and b) there's no guarantee that Gardner would have won the game.

That move didn't necessarily guarantee the outcome.  At best, it would have been a 50/50 proposition.  I would perhaps suggest it was closer to 40/60 or 30/70, considering that Gardner had recently hurt his shoulder and was playing WR for much of the time.


December 11th, 2012 at 4:56 PM ^

Everyone wants to blame Borges moving DG away from QB as the reason we didn't win the Big Ten, not the fact that our senior starter QB had a near-season ending injury during the game. 

It was said when Gardner moved that if Denard went down, we'd be in trouble regardless, so we might as well put all our eggs in that basket and make our decisions as if he was healthy.  I agreed with this reasoning.  But then, in our biggest game of the season, Denard left the game with an injury, and would never throw another ball again at Michigan. 

Maybe, just maybe, that's why we lost that game?  Keep in mind, we were losing when Denard got hurt, and we still might have lost even with him in the game?  And even if DG had stayed at QB all season, who knows if he would have been able to come in to that environment and lead us to victory. 

Do I think that game cost us the championship?  Of course.  Do I think it's on the coaches any more than on the star player who had a freak injury?  Nope I don't.


December 11th, 2012 at 9:29 PM ^

But it wasn't an enormous shock either.  The backup job is very important, not "we're screwed either way" as Brian argued.  I did not agree with this reasoning because it's potentially the difference between 8-4 and 6-6 or worse.  It doesn't necessarily affect OSU (though we were competitive and with Bellomy that's hard to envision), but it does effect mid-level Big 10 teams. I don't think any serious person is going to argue Gardner didn't make a difference between winning and losing the Northwestern game, for one. 

When you have a 5-star 3-year QB who more or less fits the offense you're already running, or a 3-star 2nd year QB who doesn't especially the choice for backup QB isn't as complicated as people want to make it out to be.

I'm certainly not saying we would have won without Gardner for sure, but I am saying our chances are MUCH better with him than with Bellomy.  That's the risk the coaches took - it backfired badly.  They thought Gardner could move the needle on how good the WRs are, but he didn't.  They thought the chances were low that Denard would get hurt in a high leverage situation, but he did.

The Gardner move didn't cost Michigan a conference championship - it cost Michigan a good shot at it.

If Denard's injury doesn't happen, the sitation is avoided, but it's a coaches job to plan strategies for injuries.  Developing depth is part of coaching.  Michigan's staff failed to address that need this season.  Blame fate, Rodriguez, angry God's, or whatever you want, the coaches didn't address a problem that arised.  The problem is the problem, sure, but if your roof is your house is leaning and you don't do anything to fix it - then it falls over, you can't just blame gravity...


December 11th, 2012 at 1:36 PM ^

Well, yeah, but showing Norfleet getting practice at safety in a single bowl practice might not mean anything.  He probably wasn't going to see the field at RB for whatever reason (probably because he's too small and our OL can't block anyone).  If he's practicing at safety, so what?  Will he actually play there?  I really doubt it.

EDIT:  And it's even possible that the kid wearing 26 in the video that appears for like a half second is not actually Norfleet.


December 11th, 2012 at 1:30 PM ^

Yes our coaches are division one they do not write a blog for a living.  If Greg Mattison sits there and says "This kid is an athlete I feel like I could use him"  is the idea still plain stupid?  Or is Greg Mattison stupid because Brian from MGoBlog does not agree?


December 11th, 2012 at 2:05 PM ^

A third option:  It could be that the purpose of any blog is to raise issues and opinions.  One man's trash is another man's treasure, so to speak.  If you chose to believe every move a coach makes is right because he is a division one coach, more power to you.  If someone else chooses to criticize every move a coach makes, more power to them.  But using the "he knows better because he's smarter than you" argument is kind of a cop-out and kind of boring, to be honest.  Debate the merits.  Its much more interesting.



December 11th, 2012 at 2:27 PM ^

No politics.  No Rodriguez debates.  Those two things out of the way, I agree with the sentiment that people in current positions should not be criticized.  With annual reviews coming up, that rule would be an awesome way for me to keep my job forever!  Muhahaha!


December 11th, 2012 at 3:28 PM ^

I'm saying the guy that never played a sport in his life should not be able to question the people saw fit to coach the winningest program of all time.

I didn't favor retaining RR due to producing the worst teams in Mcihigan history. However I never sat there and questioned every decision he made.  He was the head coach of a division one program and I played high school football he wins. 


December 11th, 2012 at 1:33 PM ^

The "coaches are doing it so it is right" argument?  What is your take on the 4th down call against OSU after halftime.  Oh, that's right, a coach made that call so it is correct.  Come on man. 

Most of the post was not even questioning the coaches but expressing frustration that in the days of it will be a miracle if Toussiant sees the field again that Northfleet has not proved a capable enough runner to get a serious look.  And if that is the case it is dissapointing.  Running back prospect to one of many roaming a defensive secondary is rarely a good thing.


December 11th, 2012 at 1:36 PM ^

I'm not saying the decision is right or wrong.  We will not know that until games are actually played.  For now I am assuming the coaches that coach for a living are doing this for a reason.  The reason being they think it can benefit the team. 


December 11th, 2012 at 1:44 PM ^

you would agree that it sucks that 1) Northfleet is not a kick ass running back with big plans for next year, and 2) Two big time recruits in Furman and Robinson are bad enough that we are converting a 5'6 160 pound kick returner to play safety, correct?  So, if this is the case, you and Brian agree on more than you think.


December 11th, 2012 at 2:13 PM ^

I think that it is just as safe to assume one of our division 1 coaches think that our safety position is not looking good due to the fact that they are willing to try a 5'6 guy there. Yes, they know a lot more about football than we do, but it doesn't require particularly insightful knowledge to know that the vast majority of safeties are not 5'6 and there is a reason for that (too small). The coaches might think there is a chance that he becomes effective there, but the chance that he usurps Wilson/Gordon with Robinson and soon to be Dymonte Thomas also competing for spots is small and seems a waste of Norfleet's talent. Although he might not be an every-down back, how can we not find a way to get him 5-10 touches in a game in space whether it's running or catching? Just seems desperate, like moving Ricardo Miller to TE or moving Will Campbell to OL (know it was previous coaching staff for that second one; also, granted the Washington to DL worked out well).


December 11th, 2012 at 5:21 PM ^

I totally agree with you because who knows what is really the reason they have norfleet at safety?  I believe it could even be a case where maybe he giving some type of scout team look for our qbs to throw against bc of his speed.  SC has a great def and offensive coordinators will do anything to challenge their qbs in practice to make sure they are prepared for the game.  on the other hand, it does worry me the lack of recruiting at the safety position even though it is an easy position to transition someone into if they are athletic and fast and like to lay the wood.  bring back ernest shazor!!!


December 11th, 2012 at 1:23 PM ^

I'm not sure if it makes much of a difference, but Norfleet is not 5'6". He was llisted by Scout as 5'7", and I have seen him around campus, and I would bet he is taller than 5'7". Kids do grow after high school. But like I said, I'm not sure a couple of inches makes that much of a difference at safety when we are talking the 5'6" to 5'8" range. Nonetheless, its not exactly convincing when you try to make your piont by using the lowest cited height for him.


December 11th, 2012 at 1:55 PM ^

Never can tell if/when a player will suddenly "get it" one year or not, but Robinson might still make a jump. I don't think this clip means anything. Likely that Wilson or Robinson will start next to Gordon next year. We'll have 7or 8 safeties in 2013 and a few of them could play either spot, so Thomas might win a job, but we might not need him to play as a true freshman, either. 


December 11th, 2012 at 1:26 PM ^

It's possible he's trying out at several positions. Since he's viewed by many as a "situational" player to date, he could be a situational player on Special Teams, Offense, an Defense. It could also be that depth at Safety is a concern approaching the Bowl season, and he's not doing much else at the moment.

His Dudeness

December 11th, 2012 at 1:32 PM ^

If you question the Hoke, you get the wrath of the Walmart, man. Shouldn't you just write about how awesome he is and about how funny it is that he doesn't wear a coat? I mean seriously, man. He doesn't wear a coat!!! IN THE WINTER!!!! His arms have to be so freaking cold! Right??

This insight about Norfleet that I wouldn't have otherwise even heard about isn't why I read this blog. I come here for the HURRRR and the BLEARRRRGGGHHH about how awesome it is to win 8 games with a senior QB in the worst year of Big Ten football that I can remember in my entire life. I mean seriously, dude man man dude. I mean if coach Hoke knows enough to put Bellomy in instead of Gardner than he certainly knows how awful Norfleet would be with a solid interior line next year. COME ON!!!!!

Hardware Sushi

December 11th, 2012 at 1:47 PM ^

Everybody appreciates dissent from the Michigan online hivemind, but I think a lot of the responses here are about the tone of the post, not the information presented or Brian's disagreement with the coaches.

This post is over-the-top and out of character for Brian, save the occassional post about Big Ten expansion, hockey playoffs, etc.


December 11th, 2012 at 4:41 PM ^

1) Reading comprehension fail if you think Brian's post is out of character

2) He does this stuff "on the regular"

3) Let's give Brian credit for doing this intentionally. This crap generates more clicks and responses on an a day lacking much interesting content. Carefull Brian you may have a future working along side Dave Brandon in his marketing department.