Expectations are high as we enter the 2017 off-season. After the Hurricanes posted a 9-4 record in 2016 many feel that the program is poised for a larger breakout in Year 2 of the 'Richt Era'. Yet, before you can project lofty expectations there needs to be development. Defensive Tackle Kendrick Norton is chief among the team in making a leap from from freshman to sophomore in 2016. Standing at 6'3 weighing about 305 lbs. Norton is an tremendous asset in the run game given his ability to inflict his will on his counterparts.
A 3-star commit (247 Sports) from Trinity Christian Academy out of Jacksonville, Florida, Norton was a big get for a program that was in need of depth among the defensive line. From his first game against Bethune-Cookman in his freshman in which he tallied a sack, Norton has provided a positive impact for the Canes D overall. Playing as part of the rotation in 2015, he put together a modest stat line ( 19 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack) in 12 games.
Whether you'd like to split credit between DC Manny Diaz, DL coach Craig Kuligowski, or chalk it to the Rich-effect, whatever the cause, Norton stepped into his own his sophomore year and the Miami defense benefited immensely because of it. This past season has seen Norton go from a rotational player as a freshman to starting DT in his second year. From his spot atop the depth chart, Norton thrived throughout the season starting every game at his position. Big No.7 finished well.... 7th on the team in total tackles with 39 (21 solo, 18 assists). While he finished 9th on the team with 2 sacks, his most impressive stat comes in tackles for loss where he was tied for 3rd on the team with LB Shaq Quarterman with a solid 10.
Norton was key on a defense that dropped their opponents yards per carry down to a astonishingly low 3.43 and slashed the total rushing TDs allowed to a paltry 10, the lowest mark allowed by Miami since 2011.
At the conclusion of the regular season Norton was awarded with the Jim Kelly U-Tough award on defense. He also finished the year as a third team All-ACC member.
What's to come in 2017
Entering his junior year Kendrick Norton will be a leader among an immensely talented defense in 2017, with even more loftier projections entering the season. Look for Norton to take on more double teams, helping to create ideal one-on-one matchups for Miami’s elite rushers off the edge.
Alongside RJ McIntosh at the other DT spot, look for more continuity along the defensive line starting with the law firm of Norton & McIntosh Inc. in the middle. Norton has the strength, finesse as well as an appetite for knowledge to classify himself as one of the best DTs in the nation this coming year. A double-digit sack junior season would be phenomenal, but one would assume stuffing FSU's run game and avenging the debacle that was VT running rampant in 2016 would be just as if not more highly praised. Norton has morphed into a better player each season. There should be few who doubt that he will exceed the player he was in 2016.