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Posted on Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 5:30 a.m.

Brady Hoke says it's too early to tell if Michigan's return game has improved

By Nick Baumgardner


The Michigan football team hopes Jeremy Gallon (right) and company can improve their kick return game in 2012.

Melanie Maxwell |

The Michigan football team saw improvement in many areas under Brady Hoke in 2011.

But the return game was not included in that list.

The Wolverines averaged just 18.4 yards per kickoff return last season, the team's worst output in 11 years. The punt return game wasn't exhilarating either, and Michigan will be looking for answers in both areas this fall.

So far, though, none have surfaced.

"It's so early still," Hoke said earlier this week. "We have eight out of 11 guys who were on the punt team a year ago that are back, but you've got to fill those holes.

"A lot of that is getting some new guys accustomed to what we're doing as far as fundamentals."

Nationally, Michigan couldn't have been much worse in the kick return game last season. The Wolverines finished No. 117 out of 120 teams in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision in that category.


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Michigan's most consistent kick returner last season was departed senior Martavious Odoms, who wasn't exactly sparkling.

Odoms fielded 19 kicks with an average of 21.2 yards. His long, and the team's long, was 33 yards.

While Odoms didn't bring people to the edge of their seat in the return game, he was still Michigan's best.

Senior running back Vincent Smith was next in line with seven returns and an average of just 18.4 yards. The only other returning player to field a kickoff last season was junior wideout Jeremy Gallon, who brought back just three kicks -- and only averaged 15.3 yards.

Smith and Gallon will no doubt get looks at the return spot this season, and sophomore cornerback Blake Countess practiced at the position some last year as well.

But the real wild card in this conversation could be freshman Dennis Norfleet.

Norfleet, a 5-foot-7 Detroit King product, was extremely dynamic in the open field at the high school level, and seems to fit the mold of a shifty return man moving forward with the Wolverines.

"They told me I will be playing kick return, punt return and slot," Norfleet told WTKA in February. "I'll be fine with that if that's what I have to work with until I work my way up to the running back position."

As far as punt return goes, Michigan was neither terrible nor great.

Gallon averaged a respectable 10.1 yards on 19 punt returns, and will likely be the front-runner in that area once again in 2012. As a team, Michigan's nine yards per punt return put them at No. 53 overall.

Not bad, but not necessarily good enough, either.

"We always work hard on the punt team," Hoke said. "That's kind of the most important play in football with momentum shifts and field position and all the different things we think can happen."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.


Javier Martinez

Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

Hate to say it folks but the Wolverines are toast this year. 8-5 at best. East Lansing is the power center in Michigan now....get used to it.


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

Always amusing how some comment totally off the topic and meaning of the news article. The kick return game needs a lot of work and I wouldn't expect much not only the first week of practice but most of the fall camp. Game conditions is where it will come. It took most of last season to see Brandon Gibbons gain confidence in kicking field goals. Why? Needed to come through in a real game against real opponeents who want to rip them apart. Seeing improvement on the kick return game will require not only the most work but should be a work in progress as the season progresses. I hope we'll see glimpses of improvement early on. Seems like it was either Drew Dileo or Jeromy Gallon got close to breaking one for the house last season. Michigan hasn't had a real run back specialist since Steve Breaston and is long overdue. Go Blue!!

Robert Granville

Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 10:55 p.m.

I disagree. One lightning fast athlete returning kicks can change the game just by stepping on the field.

Steve McQueen

Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 9 p.m.

Justice Hayes is not a factor in kick returns?

Javier Martinez

Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Brady Choke

Robert Granville

Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 6:47 p.m.

The real question is if kick returns will even be relevant now that they've been moved forward 5 yards by the NCAA. Strong-legged kickers will probably post most kicks too deep into the end zone for a return.


Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 12:58 a.m.

great point. Maybe our coaches aren't worried so much about the kicking game cuz they know it's phasing out. Sad but true


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 10:21 p.m.

Good point about the new rules.


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

Your right DW it is pretty lame. Its usually best to ignore those guys. Its kinda like the guy in the corner of a bar always trying to get the ladies attention by using the same pickup line after every woman that walks by but being shot down everytime. They never get the clue.


Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 10 p.m.

Haha I love it SEC fan. That does stand for the Securities and Exchange Commision right?


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 11:43 p.m.

awww...u hurt my feelings. can i borrow your binky and teddy bear?


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

People who troll are people who are in desperate need of a girlfriend.


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 5:14 p.m.

same pick up line? geezzz...that's all I've hear out of ummmy for over a decade! "we're so great...we only lose cause everyone else cheats"...."where's my binky?"


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

Things could be worse. We could be Sparty. And "wheres the threat" is so lame lmfao

Javier Martinez

Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

awww pooor steve mqweeen and dw. LOL. Did Sparty hurt your feelings? You have a boo-boo? Dantonio OWNS the Wolverines. The road to the Big 10 title goes through East Lansing. Wake up and smell reality, boys.


Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

Funny, SEC fan lets just make something crazy up when we get some actual stats put in our face. LOL!


Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

a degree in B.S., also enough said!! GO BLUE!!!


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 11:42 p.m.

@steve. Well, since we're lying and making up "facts" SEC is 10000455004004005883 and 10 vs um and Big 10

Steve McQueen

Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

Michigan is 25-5 vs. the SEC all time and is something like 67-28 vs. Sparty. Enough said.


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

Interesting statement. Everywhere I read on this site, the #1 goal of um is to win the big10 conference (never mind the weakness of the goal). and where has um been lately? Sparty won it in 2010. And got to the championship game last year. Where was poor little wolvy? home watching the game. And the future of um as big 10 champs? well, you don't get to "share" it actually have to win it! so...there's go any chance!


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

OVERRATED! Where's the threat? 3 weeks from today the "dream" will come crashing down.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 1:21 a.m.

Hole is practicing his suspended you doubt that he intends to play them as well?

Javier Martinez

Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

Ha ha ha. Tom knows whats going down. Bama' is gonna crush the Maize & Blue. Sorry folks, we're looking at an 8-5 season at best. Denard is overrated and so are we. Have another drink Fitz!


Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 12:51 a.m.

LOL! you'll see the threat! Especially when one of our freshman from our great recruiting class runs all over you. Face it you had you're run and its over! We are bringing in athletes you can't compete with. SEC fan wait and see!


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

@those: you're alright!


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

Had Fitz been able to play, we would have smoked Bama.... oh... the game didn't happen yet? Ok, hold that thought for just a moment.


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

I can't wait to hear all the excuses...


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

yes tom sparty is OVERRATED and BOISE STATE will show that your dream is all wet!! GO BLUE!!!!!!


Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

Keep talking, Tom. We'll see how the teams perform once the season actually starts. Until then it's all talk.