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December 14, 2012

Dennis Norfleet makes move to cornerback

Michigan freshman Dennis Norfleet has moved from running back to cornerback, head coach Brady Hoke announced Friday. Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore receiver Jerald Robinson has left the program.

Hoke didn't have anything to say about Robinson's decision, but had plenty to say about Norfleet, who appeared in every game this season as the Wolverines' primary kick returner.

"He's done a nice job so far," said Hoke. "We moved him two weeks ago, and we've talked about it for awhile. Just to get another good athlete on the field.

"He played cornerback his sophomore and junior year in high school. He didn't play as a senior. His ball skills are really pretty darn gone good. Good quickness. He's not the biggest guy in the world but he's a competitor and he loves to play.

"Is it difficult to make this move? Give me about four more days and I'll let you know to be honest to that kid. He's willing to learn. He's a guy that loves to play football."

Norfleet averaged 23.4 yards per kickoff return this season on 34 returns, and had two punt returns for 53 yards. He also rushed the ball twice for 13 yards, but despite measurements - he's 5-7, 161 pounds - that seemingly would deter him from the defensive side of the ball, Norfleet is on the move.

"He's a good football player and let's give him an opportunity to get on the field," said Hoke, who mentioned 14-year NFL vet Antoine Winfield as someone that hasn't let his 5-9 height slow him down. "He's not very big, and he's pretty good."

Norfleet will continue to return punts and kickoffs in the Outback Bowl and in the future.

Robinson was expected to be a breakout player offensively this season with a need for playmakers at the receiver position, but he never got on track, finishing the year with only five catches for 69 yards. His departure brings U-M's 2013 scholarship availability allotment to 25.

  • Bowl practices are a good time for young players to earn important reps, and the chance to develop. Hoke cited a number of freshmen that have impressed him.

    "Some of the young guys up front [on the offensive line] -- Kyle Kalis, Blake Bars, Ben Braden, and Erik Magnuson, are all getting a little better. [Tailback] Drake Johnson is a big back. I like what he's done so far.

    "I think [linebacker] Royce Jenkins-Stone is getting more reps right now and that's helped him. The guys up front, Ondre Pipkins has taken a lot of snaps. Even though he's played some, he's still a young guy and needs work on technique. Willie Henry and Matthew Godin, and Tom Strobel … they're all making some improvements."

    Jenkins-Stone is working out at the MIKE while Pipkins is at the nose, Godin and Strobel at strongside end, and Henry at the three-technique defensive tackle.

    Kalis, Bars, Braden and Magnuson are all working out at guard and tackle, not at center. However, redshirt freshmen Jack Miller and Graham Glasgow have shown some good signs at center.

  • Hoke did not offer much of an update on senior quarterback Denard Robinson's arm. He did touch briefly on redshirt junior tailback Fitz Toussaint, who suffered a leg injury against Iowa that required surgery.

    "He has to heal up. He's doing some rehab work. He's on crutches still but he's smiling. He's excited. They think it's going to be a really good recovery."

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