Brady Hoke says it's too early to tell if Michigan's return game has improved
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
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.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."