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September 12, 2013 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-09-12

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, September 12, 2013 - 7A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Thursday, September12, 2013 - 7A

Miller and O-line
still trying to jell

Sophomore slot receiver Dennis Norfleet was called "spicy" by fifth-year senior safety Thomas Gordon. He keeps teammates awake with pranks and disupts defenses
N et y

Daily Sports Editor
One hot afternoon in the last
week of fall camp, Dennis Norfleet
strolled into Al Glick Field House.
A mop of dreadlocks splashed out-
ward underneath the brim of his
oversized bucket hat, bought from
the MDen.
He arrived alone, and for now,
no one chased him. That would
come soon enough. Norfleet,
Michigan's speedy sophomore slot
receiver, specializes in making
people miss, and that's fortunate
for him: people always seem to be
running after him, on and off the
He is Michigan's kick and punt
returner, after all. But even team-
mates have found reasons to give
him chase. Thomas Gordon called
him a "spicy, little guy." Taylor
Lewan would like to teach Nor-
fleet a lesson, if only he could be
Teammates describe Norfleet
as the team's jester, provoking
bigger players in the locker room
(and they're all bigger; Norfleet is

the shortest player on the roster
and misses being the lightest by
just two pounds) and providing a
needed diversion when the weekly
routine becomes too boring.
The week Norfleet showed up
with his oversized hat, the grind
of camp and two-a-day practices
had some feeling sluggish, said
Gordon, a fifth-year senior safety.
Norfleet made sure they were
"My role is basically keeping
everybody up," Norfleet said. "I'm
aguy that always has energy, aguy
that don't sleep."
Norfleet's tactics vary. He can
trash-talk about anything, said
sophomore defensive end Mario
Ojemudia. And he will goad play-
ers and coaches alike.
Lewan, though, has become
Norfleet's favorite target. Nor-
fleet and other younger players
occasionally challenge the locker-
room hierarchy by trying to dash
all the way through the "senior
pit," as redshirt freshman guard
Kyle Kalis calls it. Most don't make
it through.
Norfleet takes it a step further.

When Lewan isn't looking, Nor-
fleet will sneak up and jump on his
back or hit him on the side. Then
he'll run away.
Lewan is a 6-foot-8, 315-pound
All-American left tackle. Norfleet
weighs 169 pounds. He is just
"He's so small and Taylor's so
big, so people start laughing at
that," said fifth-year senior line-
backer Cam Gordon. "Taylor
hardly catches him, he can't catch
On the field, Norfleet disrupts
defenses with similar delight.
He was recruited to Michigan as
a running back. The recruiting
website 24/7 Sports reported his
40-yard dash at 4.34 seconds. He
returned kicks as a freshman but
was stuck behind a stable of backs,
so he transitioned to defensive
back at the end of 2012. His ath-
leticism was too much to keep off
the field.
Now in 2013, he's back on
offense, this time as a slot receiver
who can also take a handoff. He
has just four career rushes for a
total of 52 yards and three recep-

tions for 17. Still, he commands
the defense's attention. Michigan
likes to use jet motion to get the
ball to Norfleet on a sweep. The
defense has to honor it.
"When you see Dennis in
motion, he's heading to get the ball
so you gotta pay attention to him,"
Ojemudia said.
If not, he'll find the open field,
and there, his size is an advantage.
Ojemudia said Norfleet is the only
player who can avoid a tackle by
ducking underneath it. Meeting
Norfleet in the open field, Gordon
said, "that's like a nightmare."
"He's like a freak of nature,"
Ojemudia said.
Norfleet's 2012 season ranked
second all-time on the Michigan
returning yard list at 827 yards. He
assumed punt return responsibili-
ties this year, too, and though he's
struggled at times to catch the ball
cleanly, Michigan coach Brady
Hoke called him a playmaker.
The trick for Michigan is to
get him in the open field. Norfleet
always seems to be running from
someone, and no one has caught
him yet.

The young interior
line passed its first
test against Nix
Daily SportsEditor
What's the biggest difference
between the Jack Miller of 2012
and the Jack Miller that you've
seen so far in the first two
games of the Michigan football
team's 2013 campaign?
Well, obviously the fact that
the redshirt sophomore is now
the starting center. But his
transition from backup to the
man in charge of the snaps -
and the success he's seen there
so far - is the result of two
things on Miller's part.
The first was all the prepa-
ration Miller put in during the
offseason as part of the battle
for the starting center position
that took place all spring and
through most of summer.
"I'd say lifting is probably the
biggest thing," he said. "I don't
care how good you are, you're
an 18 year-old boy coming in
to play with 23-year-old men.
There's just a physical differ-
ence, and you have to get to that
That sort of preparation
wasn't just limited to the weight
room, though. Miller said he
diligently studied the playbook
all summer, as a way to stay
"two steps ahead" of everything
by the time fall camp rolled
The second change in Miller
isn't as obvious, but it's visible
to Michigan coach Brady Hoke.
"Jack, at least early in his
career, I thought sometimes
he was not confident in what
he could do," Hoke said. "I've
seen that grow, and it's part
of maturity. I believe that he
works awfully hard. He has
really stepped up in his commu-

nication, which he has to at that
That couldn't have been
more evident than in last week-
end'sgame against Notre Dame.
By now, enough has been said
about the success of the Wol-
verines' interior line against
Louis Nix III. For Miller, what's
most important is how he and
the rest of the offensive line
move forward from there.
Holding off Nix was argu-
ably their biggest challenge of
the season, so overcoming that
obstacle this early in the season
provided Miller with a good
vantage point of where the line
currently stands and where it
has to go.
One thing Miller doesn't
have to worry about, though, is
chemistry with redshirt junior
quarterback Devin Gardner.
"It's easy because Devin is a
great leader, it's been easy to get
that going," Miller said. "Every-
one up front will feel that way.
He's doing a phenomenal job
leading us right now and mak-
ing that offense go. We're really
clicking with him. That's the
objective of any good team."
Now that the offensive line
has already clicked with Gard-
ner, the next item on the check-
list is opening up the ground
game for the running backs. In
order to do that, Miller says, the
interior line still needs to work
on its chemistry. That connec-
tion is something that's made
significant progress over the
past few weeks, but still isn't
anywhere near where Miller
would like it to be.
"Jelling more up front,
(knowing) where each other is
at, and what we're thinking," he
said. "Just getting to the point, a
good O-line is nothing but con-
sistent play. You've justgotto be
consistent, focus every play and
execute every single play. Once
we get that going, I think it will
really open up the run game."

' Michigan playing for best start in program history

Daily Sports Writer
Women's soccer coach Greg
Ryan has said
this year's team
is the best he's
seen at Michi- atNM '1
gan. Mhgan
One more
win will back Matchup:
that up with the Detroit 2-3-1;
best start in pro- Michigan 5-0
gram history. When: Thurs-
The 11th- day 7 p.m.
ranked Wolver- Where: U-M
ines (5-0) play Soccer Stadium
Detroit at U-M
Soccer Stadium
on Thursday,
where they look to build momen-

tum heading into Big Ten play.
Michigan started 5-0 in 1998 and
2002 but could set a new mark by
beating the Titans (2-3-1) in the
last non-conference home game.
"We came into Michigan, and
no one really talked about us,"said
senior midfielder Tori McCombs.
"It's really cool to see. But at
the same time, we can't really
acknowledge that accomplish-
ment until we get there."
For Thursday's game, Detroit's
biggest weapon is senior forward
Kaitlyn Quarrell, who Ryan said
can cut inside from left midfield.
The matchup with Detroit and
Sunday's tilt at Butler are the
lone tune-ups before the Big Ten
schedule begins.
Michigan beat Detroit, 1-0,

last year and is 7-2 in the all-time
series. The Titans have played all
six of their games on the road this
year, two of which were against
ranked teams. Both teams have
played Eastern Michigan: Detroit
lost, 3-2, and Michigan won in
overtime, 2-1.
Michigan comes into the game
off a 2-0win over then-No. 22 Pep-
perdine. The Wolverines allowed
Pepperdine only three shots on
goal using a reshuffled back line.
Without junior Olivia Brannon,
who is still recovering from last
season's knee surgery and is being
tested for a foot injury, Michigan
moved senior Shelina Zadorsky
to center back and added senior
Kayla Mannino on the back line.
"We just look like we're a little

bit more solid defensively with
Kayla at the back and (junior
defender) Chloe (Sosenko) at the
back," Ryan said. "There will be
times where I know we're going
to get Kayla further up the park,
because she is very creative at the
Mannino started 19 games last
season and started the first four of
this season at right midfield. She
said the transition to the back line
has been smooth.
"I've told the coaches before,
'I'll play goalie if you want me
there,' " Mannino said. "I'm open
to anything."
Mannino, Ryan said, was an
attacker when she started her
career, but the team converted her
to midfield, as it has with several

other players, such as Sosenko.
"Defense, I just have to be more
reserved," Mannino said. "There
are times where I'm really tempt-
ed to go forward because I want to
score, which is the mentality for
midfield, but I can't have that for
With senior defender Holly
Hein in the middle, this is one of
the most experienced defenses in
Michigan history. Sosenko and
Hein each ranked in the program's
top four in single-season minutes
played last season.
As the Wolverines keep win-
ning, their expectations continue
to mount. However, McCombs
said their focus is still elsewhere.
"A lot of people around us think
that we have pressure on us,"

McCombs said. "(Ryan) keeps
reminding us that nothing's won
yet. Rankings don't matter. We
come into practice, and we forget
about the weekend and we focus
on the game ahead of us. You can't
really look that much into the
Michigan is now the highest-
ranked team in the Big Ten, higher
than 15-time reigning Big Ten
champion, No. 13 Penn State. But
the Wolverines would rather play
their best soccer near the end of
the season.
"That's something we just
addressed as a team because we've
had such a great start, not to let
go of that," Mannino said. "Make
sure we don't get comfortable or

For freshman Cole, a limitless potential

Daily Sports Writer
When freshman middle block-
er Abby Cole reached her adult
height of 6-foot-5, it was time to
raise the net.
As a freshman at Grand Haven
High School, Cole - already the
No. 3 singles player on her varsity
tennis team - was forced to ditch
the racket for her first love, volley-
ball, which fell in the fall season
on the high school calendar.
That same winter, Cole excelled
on the basketball court, leading
her team to a state title in her
freshman season, the first of two
in her high school career. Cole was
named the Class A Player of the
Year by the Associated Press, and
was recruited heavily by Division-
I coaches around the country.
Though it was a love of basket-
ball that kept Cole from playing
club volleyball, a passion for her
fall sport brought her to Michi-
gan. In her senior year, Cole was
named the No.3 senior amongthe

top-250 volleyball player:
nation, according to Pre
ball.com, and was named
Under Armor All-Americ
ond team. In her home sta
was a runner-up for Mi
Miss Volleyball award in 2
was named to
the All-Michi-
gan first team. "Sh
In her first
year with the CIOC
No. 7 Michigan
volleyball team, as s
Cole is the only
freshman rep-
resented in the
starting lineup,
replacing former starting
blocker Claire McElhen
Michigan native is curre:
reigning Big Ten Freshma
Week and sits among Mic
top three hitters with 43k
just six errors.
"I'm excited," Cole said
think the transition has1
easy just because of my

s in the mates and the coaches."
pVolley- But without competitive, win-
I to the ter volleyball, Cole's athletic tal-
an sec- ent remains just that: raw talent.
te, Cole And for Michigan coach Mark
chigan's Rosen, that means potential, and
012 and lots of it.
"(Cole) is a
great learner,"
te's nowhere Rosen said.
"She's very
se to as good humble and
she just keeps
he's going to progressing.
The best thing
be." about Abby
is that she's
nowhere close
to as good as
middle she's goingto be. As a coach, noth-
ry. The ing is more exciting than that."
ntly the Across the court from senior
.n of the co-captain Jennifer Cross and
chigan's alongside sophomore blocker
kills and Krsytalyn Goode, Cole gives
Michigan's front line an entirely
. "I just different look. She is able to run
been so the slide around the back of soph-
y team- omore setter Lexi Dannemiller

with ease - a hit that mimics the
layup in basketball - much like
McElheny in 2012. Cole boasts 13
blocks on the season and only one
error, compared to Cross' 20 and
four. She has also recorded three
more kills than her counterpart.
But through the first five
matches of the regular season,
Cole has lived and died with the
long shot. Having committed just
six attack errors in 71 attempts, so
far the long ball is working. But
when other teams figure Cole out,
fewer and fewer shots will hit the
floor. The challenge then will be to
put the ball in front of the attack
line. If and when Cole learns to hit
down rather than into the corners,
she will be a force to rival middle
blockers like Stanford senior
Stephanie Browne and formidable
Big Ten defensive specialists.
It's an easy fix, says Rosen.
"It's a matter of being taught,"
Rosen said. "Lucky for us, she's
been successful at nearly every-
thing she's tried so far, so it's just
amatter of time."

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