Freshman Dennis Norfleet moves to cornerback, could play there in Outback Bowl
ANN ARBOR -- Freshman tailback Dennis Norfleet has sparkled as Michigan's kick returner this year, but hasn't seen much time other than on special teams.
That could change against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl -- although it won't be on offense.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke confirmed Friday evening that Norfleet has moved from tailback to cornerback. The move was executed two weeks ago, and the 5-foot-7 freshman already has impressed with his athleticism in the defensive backfield.
"He's done a nice job so far," Hoke said. "He's a good football player, and let's give him an opportunity to get on the field. Get into different packages, you could get him on the field easier.
"His ball skills are pretty daggone good. He's not the biggest guy in the world, obviously, but he's a competitor and loves to play."
Hoke said coaches began talking during the season about moving Norfleet to take advantage of his athleticism, and approached him about their plan around the end of the season.
Norfleet played cornerback while a sophomore and junior at Martin Luther King High School in Detroit, which should help expedite his transition.
"I think he can play in the bowl game," Hoke said.
Michigan starts senior J.T. Floyd and sophomore Raymon Taylor at cornerback, and junior Courtney Avery is the primary nickel back. If Norfleet plays against South Carolina, it likely would cut into Avery's time at the nickel.
Hoke said Norfleet will continue to be Michigan's primary kick returner. He averaged 23.4 yards per attempt in the regular season, ranking third in the Big Ten.
He had two rushes on offense for 13 yards.
Norfleet's move to defense appears to be permanent, not just a one-time deal for South Carolina, although Hoke also didn't close the door on a possible move back to offense.
"We'll see," Hoke said. "We'll go through the spring and see where he's at."
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