NCAA Football News

Michigan Football: How Dennis Norfleet's Dismissal Impacts the Wolverines

The surprising dismissal of Michigan Wolverines senior Dennis Norfleet on Tuesday sent shockwaves through social media, pelted messageboards with speculation and ignited talk radio’s finest.

"Evidently he was dismissed from the team, Dennis informed us he was no longer on the team," said Norfleet’s high school coach, Dale Harvel, according to Nick Baumgardner of MLive. "Something about a disciplinary thing between him and coach Harbaugh. Whether it was academics or something internal, I'm not sure. He just said they had a disagreement and he was let go."

While untimely for a team searching for production, the loss of the senior return man/athlete/receiver probably won’t put a major dent in Michigan’s offensive plans for 2015, if any.

Though “excited” about Norfleet’s possibilities for the upcoming season, first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh has repeatedly referenced power football as his weapon of choice, vowing to restore the familiar brand that has led to hundreds of victories for the Wolverines.

The days of the small, shifty mini-mites in Ann Arbor have run their course.

But it wasn’t supposed to be that way for Norfleet, a 5’7”, 168-pound stick of dynamite out of Detroit Martin Luther King.

According to 247Sports, he was the No. 7-ranked all-purpose back of the 2012 class, suggesting he would go on to have a successful career with the Wolverines, who, at the time, were burning opposing defenses with speedsters such as quarterback Denard Robinson and receiver Jeremy Gallon.

Norfleet was supposed to be one of those guys—someone who could make a crowd stand still in silence until he took off with rocket-like velocity.

Oddly enough, he never returned a kick for a touchdown during his time at Michigan. He came close, though, missing a few opportunities by a block or less; he leaves the team with 90 kick returns (the most in program history) and 2,293 return yards, the third-most on record. He’s one of three Wolverines with at least 2,000 career return yards. As a junior, he caught 11 passes for 115 yards.

Replacing Norfleet, who primarily handled return duties and projected to be a second- or third-string receiver, shouldn’t be too much to handle for Michigan, which has true freshman Brian Cole, a former 4-star recruit, and Freddy Canteen, a sophomore, steadily climbing the ranks.

In 2014, Canteen was the name of the spring game. In 2015, Cole, a former Saginaw Heritage star, gained some attention for his practice habits and overall athleticism. Each of them stands to fill Norfleet’s role.

At 6’1” and 185 pounds, Canteen has a recognizable size advantage over Norfleet—plus he has comparable speed and arguably better hands. Bobbled returns became an issue during Norfleet’s final two seasons.

As a true frosh this past fall, Canteen, a former 4-star recruit, appeared in 11 games with three starts. He finished 2014 with five catches for 22 yards. The minimal, almost nonexistent production was hardly expected from a guy who lit up spring; however, “Freddy Footwork” is on the ascent and qualifies as a top candidate to absorb Norfleet’s reps.

He’s actually pushing for a No. 1 job, so he wouldn’t be a literal replacement for Norfleet. In a sense, he’d be a plus-version of Norfleet. 

At 6’2” and 200 pounds, Cole is another versatile athlete—probably just as versatile as Norfleet, only seven inches taller and 32 pounds heavier. While in high school, Cole ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds, earning recognition as one of the country’s elite prep talents.

Expectations for Cole are justifiably high. Due to having played in the spring game, Cole, the No. 5-ranked athlete of 2015, absolutely has an edge heading into camp—not to mention a wide-open window to playing time.

Due to Norfleet’s dismissal, it’d be easy to tab Jabrill Peppers as the No. 1 return man. But don’t rule out Cole and Canteen as fill-ins for Michigan’s kind of the “Atomic Dog.” Dancing prior to kicks probably won't be required, but doing so probably wouldn't hurt the next guy's chances.

Unlikely but not impossible, the vacancy could be plugged with Keith Washington, a superbly athletic do-all from Prattville, Alabama. The former 3-star recruit has now become somewhat famous for showing off his 4.3 speed during a visit with Harbaugh. 

Pencil him in as a contender. 

With Norfleet, there were possibilities but few results. Other than eclipsing 2,000 return yards, he wasn't much of a factor within the offensive scheme.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability. All recruiting information comes via 247Sports.

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Top Incoming Freshmen with the Best Chance to Start in Week 1

Throughout spring practices, we've heard about early enrollee freshmen making an impact: UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson and Florida State safety Derwin James, just to name a few. 

But what about the freshmen who have yet to arrive on campus? Which incoming players from the class of 2015 can come in and, right away throughout preseason camp, earn a starting job?

That's what we're to project. 

Keep in mind that "starting" is a loose phrase. With so many different packages and subs at positions like defensive end/linebacker and in the defensive secondary, "starting" is more of a situational thing. With that in mind, here are the incoming freshmen from 247Sports' top 100 composite rankings who have the best chance to start in Week 1 based on post-spring depth charts and position needs. 

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Ranking the Top 5 NFL Prospects on Texas' Roster

The Texas Longhorns, under head coach Charlie Strong, have begun to turn the tide in re-establishing themselves as a strong contender. Dating back to his days at Louisville, Strong has been able to recruit players who have gone on to the NFL. 

Which players currently on the Texas roster are the best NFL prospects? 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder answers that question and more in the video above.

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Which 4-Star CB Is Helping Tennessee Gear Up for a Run at the SEC Title?

Marquill Osborne is a 4-star cornerback, per 247Sports' composite rankings, who is committed to Tennessee. Osborne is a tremendous athlete who can help improve the Vols defense. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down what Marquill can bring to the Tennessee defense.

How good can Osborne be for the Vols? Check out the video, and let us know!

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Ranking the Top 5 NFL Prospects on Ohio State's Roster

Ohio State is loaded with NFL talent every year. The Buckeyes don't rebuild; they just reload with top-tier recruiting classes year after year. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder gives his picks for the top NFL talent on the Buckeyes' current roster. 

Who do you think are the most NFL-ready players on OSU's team? Check out the video and let us know!

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Ranking the Top 5 NFL Prospects on Michigan's Roster

If there is a head coach in college football who knows what it takes to be an NFL player, it's Michigan's Jim Harbaugh. Having both played in the league himself and coached, Harbaugh has a keen eye for NFL prospects.

Who on Michigan's current roster has NFL potential?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder answers that question and more in the video above.

 

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Every Top 25 College Football Team's Defensive Catalyst for 2015

If we could just get a stop...

Those words are muttered, uttered or yelled by pretty much every college football coach in the game—a communal desire for the defense to step up and make a big play. Whether it's to thwart a drive by the opponent or to force a quick possession and swing momentum in its favor, a big defensive play can do wonders for a team's chances for success.

And these are the guys who usually get it done.

Every team has that one player it can always call on to be the catalyst on defense, to make that big stop when it's needed most. They might not be the best defender on the field, but in crunch time, they're the one usually coming through.

Using Bleacher Report's post-spring practice rankings as a basis, here's our look at the defensive catalyst for every Top 25 team in the FBS.

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Georgia Football: Bulldogs Could Be in for Big Recruiting Month

The spring evaluation period of the college football recruiting calendar will come to a close at the end of May, but one school in particular is looking to close out the month with a flurry: the Georgia Bulldogs.

Mark Richt and his staff have already assembled a class with 10 commitments that currently rates as the nation's No. 6 class.

That commitment list could swell in the coming days as a pair of top in-state targets—4-star corner Chad Clay and 4-star defensive tackle Tyler Clark—have both stated their intentions to commit in the near future.

Georgia is heavily in the mix for both players, and if both choose to head to Athens, it could be the start of a charge toward a No. 1 class. 

According to Trent Smallwood of Rivals, Florida, Georgia Tech and Ohio State are the other schools battling to land Clay.

However, Georgia took the lead for Clay after a visit in February. While schools such as Ohio State have made a push for the 6'1", 180-pounder, he's been a fixture on the UGA campus in recent months and made it clear that the thought of staying close to home appeals to him. 

"When I think about it, in the long run, I'd love to stay at home and play with some of my good friends and people I've grown up with since I've been playing football," Clay told Bleacher Report in February. "To stay at home and play college football and win, that would be a great thing."

Similarly, Clark is on the verge of making his decision, perhaps by Friday, as Rusty Mansell of 247Sports noted.

Last month, Clark proclaimed the Bulldogs his leader.

The 6'3", 290-pounder is part of a loaded crop of defensive linemen from the Peach State this year.

Clay noted that a strong bond exists with a number of the state's top recruits from the 2016 cycle. Landing both in-state standouts would only seem to fuel the 'Dawgs' chances of racking up on other top Georgia prospects.

One such player would be 5-star defensive tackle Julian Rochester, who named Georgia his leader earlier in the spring and recently told Kipp Adams of Dawgs247 that he could also have a decision soon:

It might be...I am still debating. Maybe late May. I have a good idea where I want to go. I have kind of seen enough on my visits to make a decision. More yes than no.

Of course, the winds in recruiting can change in an instant.

However, the dominoes appear to be lining up for Georgia to land its first top-five class since 2009. But this class has the potential to be the best class Richt has signed in the last decade.

The happenings of the next few weeks could have a huge impact on Georgia's ability to lure one of the nation's elite classes to Athens on signing day.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Who Will Be Georgia's MVP for the 2015 Season?

Georgia lost a a lot of key personnel on offense this offseason, including top-10 draft pick Todd Gurley. The Bulldogs are never short on talent, but who will be their best player in 2015?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder gives his offensive MVP for Georgia in the upcoming season.

Who will be the Bulldogs' offensive MVP? Check out the video and let us know!

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