With Denard Robinson, Michigan‘s offense always had that “wow” factor. Everyone in the country knew, that at any time and from anywhere on the field, Robinson could make a huge play with his feet. “Shoelace” could score from anywhere, and that alone made Michigan’s offense lethal. Now, with Denard gone, Michigan might have a new game-breaker on the offense.
Dennis Norfleet could be that man, as he has been made a slot receiver for this coming season, a new way of incorporating the speedster into the offense. The sophomore with 4.4 speed showed promise as a return man last season. Although he was listed as a running back, he had just two rushing attempts as a freshman and was unlikely to be in the backfield in 2013. So, as a way to put Norfleet’s skills to use, offensive coordinator Al Borges has moved him to the slot.
This move has the potential to be huge for the offense. Norfleet, when given the ball in the open field, has the ability to make big plays. He has great speed and is elusive. Best case scenario, he could do what Darren Sproles does for the New Orleans Saints and be a small, quick slot option that drives defenses crazy. Norfleet could run crossing patterns or screens to get himself in open space so Devin Gardner can get him the ball.
Now, obviously there is no guarantee this works. People thought it would be a great idea to take Devin Hester, the greatest return man ever, and make him a wide receiver. He was awful, showing that speed doesn’t always transfer to offensive production.
But at the end of the day, this is a no-brainer for Michigan, because it is a no lose situation. If it turns out Norfleet can’t play the position, they have other proven slot options, like Drew Dileo, scrap the plan without really hurting the offense. Working Norfleet into the offense has very little risk, but if he can show even a fraction of Denard Robinson’s offensive playmaking ability, it would have a huge impact on Michigan’s offense this year.
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