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 4:21 PM ^

They guy seems to have horrible instincts on kick returns, routinely brings balls out of the endzone that he should not, and hasn't even sniffed snaps at RB this past fall.

Agreed that it reflects very poorly on the safefy situation, but that is it. You definitely can't write off a guy that has only been on the team for a few months, but you can't annoint him as the next great thing either. I always though that he was kidding, but the lenght of this post leads me to believe otherwise.


December 11th, 2012 at 4:35 PM ^

Hoke needs to step in and stop these shenanigans.  He should make Borges and Mattison go back to playing for matchsticks and stop letting them throw players into the pot.


December 11th, 2012 at 5:25 PM ^

It seems a little premature to freak out about the possiblity of Norfleet moving to Safety based on the "evidence" of one bowl game practice, doesn't it? If he is still practicing at Safety in the spring I might start to notice it. If he is still practicing at Safety in fall of 2013, I might get a little worried, until then...meh.


December 11th, 2012 at 6:21 PM ^

No. Not Jeff Backus. Jeff Backes. Jeff Backes was a Mr. Ohio football player passed over by Tressell because he was too small. He came to NU and was a running back fr year then converted to safety/db and started nearly every game he was healthy. He also returned punts and kicks. He is listed at 5'9" 190 but I knew this kid pretty well and he was no 5'9". Definitely not. He did have serious guns though which might have made him a better tackler than DN could be. Also, NU secondary caveats apply. Before you go dissing the Nebraska secondary, NU in my mind refers to 'Cats.


December 11th, 2012 at 7:17 PM ^

Dude, step away from the computer, take a deep breath, and say "why am I making long numerical lists that rant about crazy implications based on a 1 second video clip?"

Mr. Yost

December 11th, 2012 at 7:54 PM ^

I'm rarely critical of this staff, I'm never wishy washy. But I hate this move...even if it's some motivational tactic, it's just silly.

We need playmakers on offense, especially now that we're losing Denard.

Maybe move Norfleet to slot WR, but to defense? WTF? Makes no sense. Doesn't matter how much Johnson is progressing.


December 11th, 2012 at 8:48 PM ^

Relax Brian.  Timing wise it does make sense if you view this as Spring Practice A.  If making the move, this IS the time to do it.  Now he gets two extra weeks to work at it.  

I do happen to agree he will never play there.  Or RB for that matter.  He's Vince Smith, w/out the muscles.


December 11th, 2012 at 9:13 PM ^

Late to the game here, but ...

Wasn't Norfleet's most important feature his elusiveness "in space?" That's what I remember from the recruiting write-up. If so, is there a reason he can't be Gallon-esque (or maybe Odoms-esque) as a WR? I wonder if he maybe has hands of stone and they've already written off that possibility. If so, bummer ...


December 11th, 2012 at 9:43 PM ^

Over reaction. If norfleet takes snaps as a safety in practice, it won't stop him from still returning kicks and possibly punts. I doubt whether he becomes an every down back and he could be behind Hayes as a 3rd down back...Hayes could end up being a slot guy too...did Chris perry have a 3rd down back? If Smith or Green are legit, why do we need a 3rd own back? Also, doesn't Hoke frequently put more defense on the field during practice? Seems like he mentioned this strategy sometime before the Bama game. He's probably putting Kovacs in the box, and keeping an extra safety back to prepare us for SC's speed and power...


December 14th, 2012 at 10:01 AM ^

Sort of surprised that everyone is taking this premise and running with it off such little evidence. Kovacs included his name among the players he is helping and then he appears to be in the clip on defense.

It means something is up, but doesn't necessarily mean he has outright switched to defense. Could just be something they are trying out, with him working on both offense and defense.

Not a big fan of DeBorges, so the explaination that he just doesn't know what to do with him sort of makes sense.  But then, if they don't think he's a running back, how hard would it be to look at the roster and see that Gallon and Dileo are two years ahead of Norfleet and realize he could be used to replace them? They figured out how to use Gallon well enough. 

Again though, I'm not buying this as an actual move until Brady Hoke comes out and says so.  If it's too odd to believe, it probably isn't true....