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