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Posted on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 9:30 a.m.

True freshman speedster Dennis Norfleet a leading candidate at kick return for Michigan football

By Kyle Meinke

Memphis. Akron. Illinois.

Three teams that went 10-27 last year.

The only three teams worse than Michigan on kick returns.

Wolverines coach Brady Hoke has been searching this offseason for a player who could spark his team's feeble return game. And, for the first time, Hoke has named a candidate: True freshman Dennis Norfleet.

"Dennis is a guy that has a specific skill, when you look at a return guy," Hoke said Tuesday. "He's a good hand-eye coordination guy."


Dennis Norfleet

Norfleet also has the ingredient all kick returners need, with 10 special-teamers torpedoing toward them: Fearlessness.

"He's not afraid," Hoke said. "You can't be afraid when you're doing that job. It's like playing corner -- if you get beat, you better learn from it, but forget about it. I think it's the same for kick return."

Hoke had previously declined to discuss candidates for kick return, although Vincent Smith, Justice Hayes, Blake Countess and Norfleet were expected to be in the mix.

Hoke fell short of naming Norfleet the starter Tuesday, but the freshman remains the only candidate he's mentioned in camp. Could he invigorate the return game?

Martavious Odoms and Vincent Smith handled most of the duties last year, but Michigan averaged just 18.4 yards per return, an 11-year low, and ranked 117th in the country.

Its long of the season was just 33 yards. Big Ten leader Purdue averaged 28.7 per return.

Norfleet, a tailback by trade, likely won't see much time in the Michigan backfield. But his speed could be an asset on returns.

"Norfleet is as quick as any kid at Michigan since I've been here," said running backs coach Fred Jackson, who is in his 21st season with the Wolverines "I haven’t seen a guy that quick."

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:25 p.m.

We only want to see him show us his skill once per game. (Must not be fun to only get to play more the more your team messes up!)


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:11 p.m.

Love the Jackson quote. Come on, Fred. You've never seen a guy that quick? Breaston, Denard, Desmond?


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 6:44 a.m.

I like the idea of a guy who is a return specialist. Having a starting WR or RB do it is fine, but it does leave them at a risk to get hurt on the most violent play in football. A guy that has his main focus on the return game will also be focusing it more in practice. Hopefully norfleet is the guy that gets UM's return game out of the gutter.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

This sounds like Hoke's way of culling the herd. Norfleet won't last 4 games before he gets popped so hard, his career will be over just like Mcguffey.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

UMgo blue, Let me give you a little reminder of Sam's last play at UM.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:14 a.m.

i guess we have to consider the source, but what an uninformed statement to make! McGuffie's career is not over, he is doing quite well at RICE as a RB, WR, SLOT, PUNT'S AND KICKOFF'S. football is a violent sport and any player at any time can get popped hard and hurt. if NORFLEET get's a small crease good luck catching him! again, your negative crap you are selling. . . we are not buying!! GO BLUE!!!


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

So you think that Hoke recruited him because he was planning on the kid getting injured?? As Bugs Bunny would say to you, "What a maroon!!!"

Terry Star21

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.

Wishful thinking hey ? Good !


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

I hope Norfleet works out in kick off returns. One aspect of the game that needs to see improvement. Soon, we'll find out and I will hope for the best. Go Blue!!

Terry Star21

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

That is true. I have always believed that you fix the weakest link first (returns), then others will follow suit and then even that (past) weakest link comes back and makes the others work harder and get better. It's called 'TEAM'.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

I think Norfleet was a very wise late addition to the recruiting class by Brady Hoke - as was Drake Johnson. He recognized Michigan needed a much faster return option than Odoms or Smith. Hopefully Norfleet can really help us this year returning kicks. It's not just straight line speed either. He also needs to be able to see a seam and decisively head toward it at full speed. All the great kick return guys have a special knack for finding the opening in the coverage. Let's hope Dennis is our guy. Go Blue!


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 4:26 p.m.

Had to get the Fred Jackson quote in there, eh ? Nice. I find it ironic the press went after RR so hard, yet he gave you guys so much info for stories. Now that Hoke is at the helm there is literally nothing to write about. (Fort Michigan) As a fan it's tough to sift though these meaningless articles based on almost nothing, but I suppose with Hoke keeping everything tight lipped at least the press can't tear down the team anymore....


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

Totally agree, Commoncents. Certainly the RR era was much more interesting from a fan's perspective. I remember the message boards blowing up day in and day out. So much debate. So much to talk about. I have to admit that it's kind of boring now, like the Carr era.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

haha is that what I said "edjasbord" ? All I'm saying is you used to be able to watch an RR press conference and actually listen and enjoy it. With Hoke all we get are "yeah we're playing tough" and "We need to improve everyday". Re-read some of these daily articles about UofM football and you'll see they're based on basically nothing. It's probably a lot better for the team that the coach doesn't let a single bit of info out, however from a standpoint of the press or the fans.... it sucks. You can tell even looking at the countdown to kickoff videos that these kids have been coached to not say a thing. Relax bud.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

Its the press's fault, not RR's. It's bartender's fault, not the drinker's. It's the pusher's fault, not the user's. It's the tobacco farmer's fault, not the smoker's. I mean, its Common sense, isn't it? I wonder how many amorphous entities are the faulty parties when things go wrong in your own life?

Terry Star21

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 4 p.m.

I think many of us were thinking ahead (I was) when Norfleet was a late addition to the class of 2012. You just had that feeling watching the video and reading his stuff, and yes maybe even quite a bit of wishful thinking (because of the great need) this was the guy. I feel so much better hearing coach Hoke's confidence - sure seems like a long time since we've had someone with the capabilities were hearing about. He'll tell you he wants to be a running back, but the first time he catches the ball at the Big House and goes all the way, and see's how real college football fans celebrate - he's in ! And yes, although DRob smokes Bolt in 40yd. from a start, Norfleet can make a couple quick fakes and still be Bolt through 40. MgoBlueForTiM....waiting for this good news all summer.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.

Best wishes to Dennis Norfleet. May he end up with the Desmond Howard Ball Return Trophy.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

Fleet-feet Norfleet! That'll sound nice on TV. <- coined it.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

At 5' 7" and 161 lbs, he had better possess a lot of speed and shiftiness because if a 6' 2" 220 lb guy hits him head on, he might get a bad concussion or worse (See Same McGuffie a few years ago). However, he must have a lot going for him to be in line to be a kickoff return guy as a freshman.

Steve McQueen

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:55 a.m.

McGuffie had straight line speed but not quickness. A better comparison for Dennis Norfleet would be Darren Sproles.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:29 a.m.

I was going by the height and weight listed on


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 9:35 p.m.

tulsatom, almost 7 months ago he was listed at 170 lbs and I'd bet he's added muscle since then.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

Sorry, make that Sam McGuffie, not Same.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

good for u of m, he had to earn it, if i remember he was not a highly rated recruit., but then again the ratings can't measure heart......


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 9:16 p.m.

He was a 4-start recruit with, which is pretty good.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

Wow, imagine what he could do against Bolt.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

This must be why Michigan is rank in the top ten and one reporter has them as #1? "Memphis. Akron. Illinois. Three teams that went 10-27 last year. The only three teams worse than Michigan on kick returns."


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

Yep, Michigan needs help in the part of the game very badly. Cannot sugar coat that. Aside from the hopes, expectations and predictions, along with our comments; we'll find out what kind of product Michigan will have very soon. Then it will either be lots of praise or criticism, and so it goes. Go Blue!


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

Great work by Kyle and Nick, You guys are pouring out great articles. It's that time of year when Michigan fans feel like they've been on a six month fast; and we want to eat again. Norfleet is going to be a burner.

Terry Star21

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 9:23 p.m.

Scott, good acknowledgement, but 'six month fast' ? Then Kyle, what have I been responding to for the last six months ?

Bob Gross

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.


Bob Gross

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

Kyle and Nick, keep a heavy hand whilst pouring out the articles. Scott, stay thirst my friend.

Kyle Meinke

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

Thanks Scott. Very kind of you you.

Bob Gross

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Had the pleasure of watching Dennis play football and basketball for King , he can go!

Terry Star21

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

Bob and Kyle, I like the one's we 'he can go' and then end with a celebration in the end zone !

Bob Gross

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

... to specific spots on the field or court as quick as any kid at King since I've been going to games there.

Kyle Meinke

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

Go where? Remember Bob, those who stay ...

jeff blue

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

I think that we need to give this young man a try on kick-off returns. Punt returns are quite different; the last thing that we need is a freshman to fumble a punt. We simply need to field the punt and keep the ball secure.

Terry Star21

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 9:19 p.m.

Jeff, you're right...I'm sure they want to test out the product - but I believe he will do both (extremely well) eventually.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

I dunno... when Steve Breaston was around, the offense had a lot less work to do...


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

The name just sounds quick. But quicker than shoelace? That's heresy in some parts!!

Paul R Lamse

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 9:38 a.m.

Terry, how about Star-Fleet!? I like your sense of humor.

Terry Star21

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 9:17 p.m.

Trying to think of a nickname, elitefleet, fleetfeet, sweetfleet......or maybe just 'long-gone'.


Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

Great News! My prediction is he'll take one all the way against Alabama. #GOBLUE

Terry Star21

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

Nice.....we think alike ! (only one, you sure ?)