The Michigan Wolverines will be looking to bounce back from a poor finish to the 2013 season next year and will need to get some key contributions from new faces next fall. The biggest area of turnover from this season to next may be at the wide receiver position where 59 percent of the receiving yardage from this season have come from players who will not be on the roster in 2014. That opens up opportunities for young players to shine and Dennis Norfleet may be the man to step into that void.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges has singled out Norfleet during bowl practices as a future slot receiver for the team. He has shown an ability to use his elusiveness in space much like Jeremy Gallon has this season to lead the team with 80 receptions for 1,284 yards and nine touchdowns. Borges describes Norfleet as being “quick as a cat” and that with more experience in the offense, he will develop into “a really good slot.” At 5-foot-7 and 169 pounds, the under-sized Norfleet has to rely on that quickness to create matchup issues out of the slot.
This season, he made minimal impact on the offense. He caught just five passes on the year for 37 yards and rushed the ball four times for 53 yards. However, he didn’t get into the offense after Michigan’s close call against the Connecticut Huskies and was relegated to making his contribution solely on special teams returning kicks. He averaged over 20 yards per return this season but failed to find the endzone during his sophomore season.
The Wolverines will lose five senior receivers after this season, highlighted by Gallon, and have plenty of room for new blood to step in and contribute next fall. Tight end Devin Funchess had a breakout sophomore season, finishing the regular season with 47 receptions for 727 yards and 6 touchdowns as the only Michigan pass-catcher not named Jeremy Gallon to catch more than 20 passes, gain more then 220 yards, or catch more than two TDs. Beyond that, only freshmen Jehu Chessen and Jake Butt rank as receivers returning to the team who logged more than 10 receptions in 2013.
He will need to show that he can step up and be a consistent contributor for Michigan in 2014 before he is counted on as a reliable option by Borges and quarterback Devin Gardner. There’s room for young players to step in and play a major role in the Michigan offense in 2014. Can Dennis Norfleet prove that he’s capable and find success out of the slot in his junior campaign?