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Published: 12/15/2012

Wolverines staying busy ahead of Outback Bowl

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
The Michigan coaching staff has moved freshman Dennis Norfleet, No. 26, from tailback to cornerback for the Outback Bowl. The Michigan coaching staff has moved freshman Dennis Norfleet, No. 26, from tailback to cornerback for the Outback Bowl.
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ANN ARBOR — The Michigan football team has gotten through the majority of a stretch that, on the surface, would appear uneventful.

But since a 26-21 loss Nov. 24 at Ohio State, the No. 19 Wolverines have earned a bowl bid, have worked through final exams, and have earned some national recognition — offensive tackle Taylor Lewan was named to the Associated Press All-America first team.

Also in that time, Michigan’s coaching staff has made a personnel change.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Friday at Schembechler Hall that in preparation for the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 in Tampa, the coaching staff has moved freshman Dennis Norfleet from tailback to cornerback.

“Just to get another good athlete on the field,” Hoke said. “It was more, he’s a good football player, let’s give him an opportunity to get on the field. In different packages, you can get him on the field easier.”

Norfleet played at cornerback in his sophomore and junior years at Detroit’s Martin Luther King, Jr., High School, and will remain on Michigan’s punt return and kickoff return teams, an area where despite his diminutive size, his quickness stood out this season.

In 12 games, Norfleet returned 34 kicks for 795 yards and had two punt returns for 53 yards, and Hoke didn’t rule out Norfleet returning to offense next season.

Norfleet’s move to cornerback, Hoke said, came two weeks ago, after discussions with coaches at the end of the regular season, and Hoke said that Norfleet could play at corner in the Outback Bowl against No. 11 South Carolina (10-2).

“Is it difficult?” Hoke asked rhetorically. “Give me about four more days, to be honest with you and to be honest to that kid. But he's willing to learn. He's a guy who just loves to play football.”

Michigan practiced Friday in half pads and plans to practice today in full pads. The Wolverines (8-4) will leave Dec. 23 for Tampa.

“You’ve got one Friday-Saturday [to practice] and the next Friday-Saturday, so there’s a lot of fundamental work and a lot of technique work,” Hoke said.

“But at the same time, defensively and offensively, we’ve started feeding some of the game plan, really, last Friday. Bits and pieces.”

Hoke anticipates running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, who suffered a season-ending left-leg injury Nov. 17, to travel for the bowl game.

“He’s on crutches still, but he’s smiling, he’s excited and they [medical personnel] think it’s going to be a really, really good recovery,” said Hoke.

RECEIVER DEPARTS: A UM spokesman confirmed that receiver Jerald Robinson has left the program, and Hoke would not discuss Robinson’s departure. The redshirt sophomore played in six games and had five catches for 69 yards. In September, he was sentenced to six months’ probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of malicious property destruction stemming from a February incident in which he damaged a gate in an Ann Arbor parking structure. Robinson is the third player to leave the team since the end of the regular season, along with defensive lineman Nathan Brink, who chose to forgo a fifth year, and fullback Stephen Hopkins.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.



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