Thursday, August 8, 2013

2013 Season Countdown: #21 Dennis Norfleet

Dennis Norfleet
Name: Dennis Norfleet
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 169 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) King
Position: Running back/slot receiver/kick returner
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #23
Last year: I ranked Norfleet #57 and said he would be the starting returner by the end of the season. He returned 35 kickoffs for 827 yards (23.6 yards/return), 2 punts for 53 yards (26.5 yards/return), and had 2 carries for 13 yards (6.5 yards/carry).

Norfleet was indeed the starting kick returner by the end of the season, and I was pretty spot on with guessing he would average 23.0 yards per return. The trouble with my prediction was that he was also the starting kick returner at the beginning  of the year. He never became the full-time punt guy, but he did have a couple nice returns in blowouts against UMass and Illinois. Overall, Norfleet was the most exciting return man Michigan has put on the field in a few years, arguably going back to the days of Steve Breaston (although Darryl Stonum had one good year in there before the booze got to him). There were a couple times where he seemed this  close to breaking returns for touchdowns, but got dragged down or tripped up at the last second. For reasons that aren't totally understood to me, Norfleet was only given two carries on the year, one of which he ripped for a 14-yard gain; that might be okay in a normal year, but Michigan lacked big plays at the running back position, especially once Toussaint broke his leg late in the year. For the bowl game, Norfleet was even moved to cornerback in case of emergency, but he only played on special teams.

This year it has been announced that Norfleet is a slot receiver, which is good and bad. It's good in the sense that he provides some speed at a position that is mostly made up of possession guys. It's bad in the sense that Michigan might still lack speed at running back. Oh well. Norfleet is most valuable as a return man, and those spots are likely his to lose. He should remain the kickoff returner, and last year's starting punt returner, Jeremy Gallon, might be relieved of those duties now that he'll be counted on as the top wide receiver. Norfleet is a big play waiting to happen, and I'm looking forward to seeing him in whatever capacity the coaches can get him on the field.

Prediction: Starting punt and kick returner; 25 yards per kick return, 11 yards per punt return; 5 receptions for 70 yards and 1 touchdown


  1. I agree with your take. Was kind of sad about the move to slot receiver, but it's nice to have a playmaker there too. It's not like he was getting used a lot at RB. It would be nice if he got the ball in his hands more often. I doubt anyone will be shocked if he still gets more carries this year than last.

    Regarding punt returns, I think Dileo may be the guy because returns are rare and the main thing is ball security. Kickoffs should be Norfleets greatest contribution and opportunity to make an impact play. I expect a couple TDs this year.

  2. In some ways, Norfleet reminds me of Sam McGuffie (small, quick, somewhat fast, good in space, not much for yards after contact).

  3. 11 yds per return would be impressive - that obviously the equivalent of 1 first down less to get going up and down the field. I looked at last year's stats and that would place him 19th nationally (#5 thru #20 got 11-14 yards). If he can do that, it's a nice weapon to have.

  4. Al Borges said his name is David Norfleet

  5. Bold prediction, but I bet he gets more carries than receptions this year. My feeling is he will be used mostly on jet sweeps and screen type passes, and I think he gets about 5-10 carries on the year.

  6. would be fun if Borges occasionally got out some of the Denard/Devin packages and put Norfleet in Denard's spot. maybe even see the Fritz a few times.