Dennis Norfleet To Safety Bothers Me

Submitted by Brian on 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.

REASON #1

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.

REASON #2

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.

REASON #3

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.

REASON #4

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.

REASON #5

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.

REASON #6

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.

CONCLUSION

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Hopefully this is dismissed as a crazy bet Fred Jackson lost by Saturday.

Comments

M-Wolverine

December 11th, 2012 at 2:26 PM ^

Dudeness goes off all over the place again, and this is the one you feel the need to wrist slap? Is because he uttered the words "Rich Rod"? 

Because Dudeness is the one who brought up the comparisons first. As did others. (Which just goes to show the meme around here that "it's always the anti-Rich Rod people who bring him up" is a load of crap)

profitgoblue

December 11th, 2012 at 2:30 PM ^

No Rodriguez when employed in veiled (or not-so-veiled) personal attacks.  That's my rule, like it or not.

(And I re-read all the comments and I don't see Dudeness mention Rodriguez anywhere.  I could be wrong though and, if so, slap my ass and call me Sally!)

 

MGoNukeE

December 11th, 2012 at 2:44 PM ^

Or even mention that Hoke receives different treatment now than Rodriguez received in his first year? Not in this thread, he didn't; his words have only gone to point out that it's ridiculous for the coaches to be above criticism. This I'm inclined to agree with, though others have made good points about "Norfleet may not be the future for Michigan's starting RB."

Honestly, is it a bad thing that MGoBlog is becoming more open to dissenting opinions than it was under Rodriguez?

M-Wolverine

December 11th, 2012 at 3:48 PM ^

Responding directly to Dudeness-

 

He's right, though, and it's both amusing and a bit sad to see how we're not allowed to criticise THIS coaching staff as if they always know what they're doing.

Lamenting how we can't do this and that (even though no one's stopping it) compared to how it was when "the other guy" was coaching. Which is utter bullshit.  And you don't need to do a lot of read between the lines with HD to see what he means. Which he confirms in a latter post in the thread to a mod that it's EXACTLY what he meant.  If you need it spelled out, you have been paying attention to him for 2 years. 

And I never complained about anyone's criticism.  I may say it's stupid to get worked up over nothing like this here (if he starts at safety in the Outback Bowl, have at it). Just saying this whole idea that MGoBlog and the boards were soooo tough on Rich while giving Hoke a free pass is imaginary.  Guys like DahBlue who'd stir things up exactly like Dudeness did dissenting would end up -35 or something. The posters protected the coaching staff while winning the same amount of Big Ten games in 3 years as we did this year. If fans are going to be loyal through that, acting like posters are suddenly the gestapo on dissenting views is ridiculous.

I have no problem with dissenting views; I have a problem with hypocritical whining.

MGoNukeE

December 12th, 2012 at 10:41 AM ^

The boards are easier on people with dissenting views than before because negbangs don't have any lasting effect. Unless you call "reduced karma" a punishment, but it seems like many readers read collapsed posts anyway, especially to make sense of responses that aren't collapsed. So yeah, it's definitely untrue regarding Hoke being beyond criticism. 

But my point is that posters should get judged for what they post now rather than what they have posted before, since people can and should be allowed to change their ways. In this thread, HD focused exclusively on the now rather than the past, which people can self-moderate or respond to without the mods needing to step in and diffuse a political/Rodriguez debate. I have a strong feeling that this was Profit's rationale behind why he didn't try to diffuse HD here, and I do agree with him. Yet it seems that, because HD's past involves meltdowns about RR's firing and ANGAR in general, you want enforcement on this thread towards HD, not the posters that are TRYING to stir the pot when citing his past Rodriguez-firing meltdowns. It's not like HD hasn't been punished before; he was nuked pretty hard by the mods in at least one instance.

FreddieMercuryHayes

December 11th, 2012 at 1:42 PM ^

Wow, I didn't even realize this was a thing.

And seriously, if Borges cannot find a way to get a guy like Norfleet even the opportunity to be succesful on offense, then I really have no hope we will be an elite team in the future under Borges.  Are we really going to just throw deep balls and run 220 lb backs up the middle?  I dunno, this kind of shit is really faith shaking.  Even MANBALLY offenses like Stanford and Wisconson use lots of formations and speedy guys to counter their POWER on offense.  Are we even going to attempt this?

Kilgore Trout

December 11th, 2012 at 1:38 PM ^

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.

Lionsfan

December 11th, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

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

jmblue

December 11th, 2012 at 4:00 PM ^

Right now we can't mention Norfleet in the same breath as those guys.  I think you could count on one hand the number of returns he broke past our own 35.  Did he ever return a kickoff past midfield?

Norfleet has excellent acceleration, but hasn't yet shown a lot of vision or ability to break tackles.  The few times he's improvised have been his best returns.

Magnus

December 11th, 2012 at 6:29 PM ^

Breaston as a RS freshman: 9 KR, 191 yards, 21.2 yards/return
Norfleet as a true freshman: 34 KR, 795 yards, 23.4 yards/return

And you'll note that Norfleet plays at a time when the kickoff team is 5 yards closer to the returner to start.  Maybe those people who said "Norfleet is better than Breaston" could be onto something.

switch26

December 11th, 2012 at 1:40 PM ^

So where the hell is Norfleet in that video tackling someone?  And to think he is going to ever start at Safety over anyone we currently have or going to have is completely absurd

akim

December 11th, 2012 at 1:40 PM ^

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 :(

Hardware Sushi

December 11th, 2012 at 1:42 PM ^

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.

FreddieMercuryHayes

December 11th, 2012 at 1:49 PM ^

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.

Hardware Sushi

December 11th, 2012 at 7:50 PM ^

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.

GoWings2008

December 11th, 2012 at 1:54 PM ^

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. 

Hardware Sushi

December 11th, 2012 at 8:00 PM ^

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.

State Street

December 11th, 2012 at 1:43 PM ^

This has to be an epic troll by Hoke and co.  a 5'6'' razor thin safety in the B1G is laughable.  This would be a GERG-like move.  There's no way that this is even in the realm of possibility.

Hoke probably went over to Kovacs before the interview, gave him a "RILE EM UP KID" and patted him on the tush.

imafreak1

December 11th, 2012 at 2:38 PM ^

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.

jg2112

December 11th, 2012 at 1:49 PM ^

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.

You're welcome.