Weight: 312 pounds
High School: Trinity Christian Academy (Jacksonville, Florida)
Draft Comparison: Chicago Bears DT Eddie Goldman (six-foot-three, 320 pounds)
If you’re reading this, then the man known as ‘Big Thick’ has declared his intentions to enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Here is Norton’s official announcement:
After a lot of thought, prayer, talking to my family and coaches, I’ve decided to make myself… https://t.co/4l8yD62fQN— Kendrick Norton Jr™ (@norton_kendrick) January 8, 2018
Kendrick Norton has been a stalwart in the middle of Miami’s defense for the past three seasons. With a prototypical nose tackle frame, Norton provided the ’Canes (who were in dire need of an upgrade at defensive tackle) with a player who can hold his ground against the run.
Friday evening, Peter Ariz of CanesInsight.com first reported that Norton would officially declare to enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Having avoided indicating his intentions, a week after Miami took an loss in the Orange Bowl, Norton made his decision official on Saturday.
Kendrick Norton ... the guitar player. pic.twitter.com/wxZshG6NTP— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) October 7, 2017
Norton is one of many Hurricanes to make an immediate impact, especially given his position of defensive tackle—a spot on UM’s roster that has been a perennially problematic void. Norton proved quickly that he was more than just a big body to be plugged into the lineup and cause pile ups, but he showed effort in pursuing plays behind the line of scrimmage, anchoring himself against the push of the offensive line, while also possessing the athleticism to get after quarterbacks in the pocket.
Where some tackles are a blend of finesse and power, Norton employs the latter trait to get into the backfield on most occasions. With either a swipe of the hands or bull rush to get by the man in front of him, Norton possesses the strength to put a 300 pound lineman on ice as he skates past to make his way into the backfield.
An impressive aspect of Norton’s game is his ability to anchor down in the middle. Whether it is a single or double team, Norton is able to hold his ground as blocker. Just try to force him off his spot. Part of this is based on his frame, another part has to do with his talent to fend off multiple blockers by himself. It’s not too often that you see No.7 get engulfed by a blocker and be unable to disengage.
One of the strengths to Norton’s game is his active hands. Despite being a big body on defense, the defensive tackle does a great job getting the hands of blockers away from his body while simultaneously keeping an eye on the backfield to see where the play is going.
Of his 247 pass rush snaps during the regular season, Norton has two sacks, one QB hit and eight QB hurries for a pass rush productivity score of 3.5. Looking at his run stats, of Norton’s 238 run defense snaps, the DT has seven tackles, eight assisted tackles and just one missed tackle.
While he is not the most fleet of foot when it comes to pursuit, you will see Norton lumber on the backside of plays to try and get in on the scrum, or to jar the ball loose if possible. While he does a good job of it, as a defensive lineman, you can always do a better job of playing with leverage.
The difficulty in grading Norton’s game is that while he may not record a stat, he still can have an impact on a given play. Whether that is showing color in his gap, spilling a pulling blocker or simply manhandling the blocker in front of him, Norton’s play against a double-team can determine the failure or success of a run play for an opponent.
Where Norton goes in the 2018 draft is dependent on what an NFL team views him as. Is he a two-down run stuffer that comes off the field in passing situations or do you think he’s athletic enough to be a defensive end in a 3–4 defense or continue being a stout tackle lining up closer to the center in a 4–3 defense and start off in a rotational role. To start his career, we think that Norton fits in the former category. Look for Norton to come off the board anywhere from the third round to fifth round.
Hurricanes Moving Forward
With Norton’s departure, combined with the graduation of DT Anthony Moten and the transfer of DT Ryan Fines, the Hurricanes are woefully thin at one-technique on the defensive interior. In the most recent edition of the Recruiting Notebook, Stefan Adams previewed a couple of DT prospects that could sign with Miami next month. Keeping the commitment of American Heritage DT Nesta Silvera is imperative. Miami is going to need a couple more big bodies (that live up to UM’s standards) to fill out the depth chart. Jon Ford, could be a candidate to move from 3-tech, but his best position would be remaining in his current role. Whether that is asking Gerald Willis to gain weight and slide over, or looking for help via the transfer route, Miami will likely need to do some finessing and tinkering along the defensive line to address Norton’s departure specifically.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!