Weight: 169 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) King
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: #23
Last year: I ranked Norfleet #21 and said he would be the starting kickoff and punt returner with 25- and 11-yard return averages, respectively. He returned 40 kickoffs for 938 yards (23.4 yards/return), 3 punts for -1 yard (-0.3 yards/return), caught 6 passes for 46 yards (7.7 yards/catch), and ran the ball 4 times for 53 yards (13.3 yards/carry).
I had high hopes for Norfleet coming into 2013 that he could become more disciplined about following his blocks, more disciplined about catching punts, more disciplined about running routes and catching the ball, more . . . okay, this is turning into a broken record. If Norfleet were a prospect coming out of high school, I would be calling him raw. He often seems to be moving a tad too fast for his own good, until he sees a gap of daylight that could send him to the endzone; at that point, he's either a tad too slow to beat the defenders or not quite strong enough to step through a tackle. Watching Norfleet is both an exercise in excitement and a test of how one handles frustration.
I will continue to insist that Norfleet is one of Michigan's most exciting players with the ball in his hands, right up there with Devin Gardner and Devin Funchess. Some newcomers might reach or surpass that level this season, but Norfleet can shimmy and shake, and he can accelerate like nobody else on the squad. The problem comes in getting him the ball. He had a shot at the punt return job last season, but he lost it early to Jeremy Gallon after looking shaky against Central Michigan and Notre Dame. Now the door is wide open for people like Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis. The same can perhaps be said for the kick return job, where Peppers will probably also get a shot to supplant Norfleet. Former offensive coordinator Al Borges got Norfleet the ball in a variety of ways, so it will be interesting to see whether new O.C. Doug Nussmeier also uses those quick pitches, jet sweeps, etc. As far as I know, Nussmeier has never utilized a scatback/receiver like Norfleet before, but he may never have had someone like him at his disposal. Regardless, I think Norfleet will continue to see time on returns and get an occasional touch on offense.
Prediction: Starting kickoff returner, backup punt returner, backup wide receiver
I just have this sense about Norfleet that he's one of those guys that we'll wait four years for him to break out, but never see a payoff. He may have some speed and elusiveness, but he just seems to lack good football instincts, especially during scrimmage plays. I think he'll be useful this year on kickoffs, and he seemed close to breaking a few last year, but even then, there were even more instances where he could have taken a kick much further back, but he just chose the wrong lane. As far as running or catching the ball, I'm not too optimistic. And I disagree that "Borges got Norfleet the ball in a variety of ways". He only had four rushing attempts and six receptions all of last year, which is less than one offensive touch per game. Maybe Nussmeier can find a use for him, even though we've got a lot of competition at WR and RB, but I'm frankly not holding my breath. He could be a great weapon, and I think he'd be tearing things up for a team like Oregon or West Virginia, but here I'd be satisfied with a few change-of-pace plays on offense and strong kickoff returns.ReplyDelete
His overall number of touches does not negate the fact that he got touches in a variety of ways. For one thing, a ratio of 4 carries to 6 receptions implies that he was used in multiple ways. Furthermore, it wasn't just one type of play (a bubble screen, for example) where he got his touches. It was on pitches, end arounds, jet sweeps, screens, etc. Thus the "variety of ways" comment.Delete
Examples of people who did NOT get the ball in a variety of ways: Derrick Green, De'Veon Smith, Drew Dileo. Green and Smith got handoffs only, and generally up the middle. Dileo wasn't a reverse or screen guy - he worked short-to-intermediate routes.
Well, I'm not sure how much it means if each of those variety of ways came only once or twice in a whole thirteen game season. The best you could say was that Borges got Norfleet the ball in a variety of ways, none of which were particularly effective, or at least not effective enough to keep doing. And it's not as if there wasn't ample opportunity get touches at RB and WR last year. Norfleet just wasn't getting it done.Delete
The statement "got the ball in a variety of ways" in no way implies that it was effective or ineffective. The numbers speak for themselves, and the rest of my comments imply that Norfleet has not been extremely effective.Delete
Didn't Nuss have former Michigan prospect Hart I believe his name was (he wore dreadlocks)? I think he broke his leg I'm not sure what happened to him but he opted to go to Alabama when RR was fired. I would think that he would have been at least as good as Norfleet for what Norfleet does for Michigan now. IMOReplyDelete
I don't know much about Hart, but I know I just saw he transferred to Colorado State University a few days ago.Delete
You're thinking of Demetrius Hart. Hart is/was a thicker version of Norfleet and has spent his whole career as a running back, so I don't know if that's a great parallel... But sure.Delete
In a world where our OL could run-block, I'd probably be grumbling that he's at WR rather than RB. But in this world, I like the mix of skills we have at WR in Funchess, Canteen, Norfleet, Chesson, and Darboh. Now they just have to play up to their potential.ReplyDelete
I think Norfleet will break through this year and turn a few of those almost-big-plays into actual big plays. That said, he hasn't been used much other than kickoffs and there is no clear role for him. There are other people who can return kicks. If he wasn't around we'd be fine. I ranked him 36th because there are other people who can match the production level he has shown thusfar. If he breaks through into a reliable punt returner that would be low, but these days punt returning is mostly about catching the ball without messing up.
at this point id say norfleet is the only guy on the countdown whose ranking i really do not understand (maybe several others were lower or higher than id rank them but theyre close - and thats the beauty of this exercise, everyone likely has differing opinions at some points). i understand norfleet possesses a skill set that no one else on the roster could likely duplicate - but its not a make-or-break skill set upon which the team depends heavily. hes decent on jet sweeps and kick returns and presents versatility where many others do not - but the team does not really depend on him to win games (relative to #24). if norfleet were not on the team or injured etc, mich would not be in dire straits. they could easily use peppers or canteen or lewis or numerous other dudes to pick up 20 yards per kickoff and likely not miss a beat. and not only do they not rely on norfleet for O production, but i dont really envision nussmeier using him much at all. if this countdown truly represents the players most valuable and vital to mich's success this coming year and measures their value relative to other players, or lack thereof if the players out of action, then norfleet is rated way too high (like 30-40 spots). the 2nd or 3rd backup at essentially every position on roster offers more value than norfleet.ReplyDelete
Agreed great pointsDelete
I guess I disagree on how valuable a kickoff returner can be. I think he has a lot of potential there if Michigan can block for him and if he can learn to follow his blocks. I do think he offers something that other guys don't have, with the possible exception of Jabrill Peppers, whom we haven't seen play at the college level. This is a projection for the upcoming season. If Norfleet has some big returns (which I hope/think he can), then I think this is a good spot for him. If he averages 20 yards/return, then obviously he's not extremely valuable. Only time will tell.Delete
There's a couple other guys in the mix here that COULD beat out Norfleet for the job, but I agree that he and Peppers sound the most promising. Drake Johnson and Drake Harris could be good too.Delete
Should Norfleet learn to take what's there and head it up field and if he is able to make someone miss, take what's there next instead of running it east/west, stopping, turning back, giving back yardage and in general screwing around, he can be a devastating weapon.ReplyDelete
My opinion is that he'll break out on someone this year in the most devastating and unexpected way. I'm thinking maybe Sparty, in the middle of a slugfest as we start to figure it out and realize we're now big and strong enough to hit them in the mouth right back ..... quicksilver.
Thunder wrote: "... Norfleet can shimmy and shake, and he can accelerate like nobody else on the squad."ReplyDelete
No kidding. Does anyone know if he can catch? It seems to me that the ideal place for Norfleet on the field would be at the line of scrimmage, spread out laterally, just after a catch, with only one man near him. In that case, he could make something happen. Maybe only 5-7 yards, but most OCs would take that any day. Rich Rodriguez (again, assuming Dennis doesn't have lousy hands) would have loved someone like this. (No value judgment implied there, btw ...)
Yeah, I think Rodriguez would have loved throwing some bubble screens to Norfleet.Delete
I place Norfleet in the category of many U-M players, not overly impressive. Until he breaks one, all the way, I will remain skeptical.ReplyDelete
Norfleet he was ranked around 40 or so in Div I in avg KOR yardage last year. That's respectable, but he did not come remotely close to taking one back that I can recall. And that's not a good sign, considering he had a lot of returns. My sense is that Norfleet has very good acceleration and decent moves, but not the top gear to pull away from fast coverage players. It's probably not a big deal either way, but my preference would be to put more of a straight line sprinter back there who has a better chance to take it to the house.Delete
Regardless, I think Norfleet is a little overhyped. The guys on Mgoblog in particular talk about him (in lock-step) like he is Rocket Ismail part II, and imply that the coaches are crazy for not using him. Maybe he could have been used more in the past in lieu of guys like Jeremy Jackson. But starting this year, I see UM as having good talent and depth at WR (and soon TE), so I am not looking forward to seeing more of him. He is a guy you can sprinkle in here or there. But a guy that little needs to be super explosive and Norfleet is not.
There have been several plays where he ALMOST broke through. That's part of why people are excited about him. So far, he has fallen short on breaking the big ones, but you gotta keep trying..Delete
He took one 80 yards against OSU but was called back on a penaltyDelete
And so it continues....the countdown of players who have yet to live up to their potentialReplyDelete