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Posted on Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Freshman Blake Countess discusses taking friend's starting job, becoming Michigan football's team next shut down corner

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan's Blake Countess (18), shown getting his first career start on Oct. 29 against Purdue, has quickly become one of the top freshmen defensive backs in the country.

Joseph Tobianski I

Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison likes to say that, on the field, star freshman cornerback Blake Countess "has no conscience."

Off the field, though, Countess is conscious of it all.

He knows he took a fifth-year senior's job. He knows the politics that go into such a decision. He knows not just any freshman gets to start at cornerback for the Michigan football program.

He knows what's expected of him: Become the Wolverines' next great corner.

"Everybody wants to be known as a shut down corner, but it comes with a lot of work," the precocious 18-year-old said. "I think I can do it, but I still have a lot of work to do."

He's on track to do just that.

Countess has experienced a meteoric rise from bench player to key reserve to starter in a matter of weeks, and already is proving himself to be, perhaps, 22nd-ranked Michigan's best cornerback.

The 5-foot-10, 176-pound Baltimore native is one of only four true freshmen in the country to have broken up five passes this season, and four of his came in Big Ten play, tied for second in the league. He's sixth on the team in tackles with 33.

"I just had to be ready when my chances came around," he said of his immediate success.

Countess met with the media for the first time in his young Michigan career on Tuesday in Schembechler Hall, and handled the 6-minute session with the kind of composure and polish he's shown on the football field.


Come back to at noon Thursday for a live chat with Kyle Meinke. He'll recap the Wolverines' loss against Iowa, discuss news that emerged this week and preview the game against Illinois on Saturday.

Most difficult for him was addressing questions about supplanting senior Troy Woolfolk as the starter at cornerback. Countess roomed with the senior during fall camp, and the pair drew close.

Woolfolk mentored the youngster, showed him the ropes, got him through his first fall practices, offered pointers that later would spark immediate results.

Three months later, Woolfolk lost his job to his pupil and was moved to safety during the off week.

What is their relationship like now?

"Me and Troy developed a bond, so he’s just like, ‘When you get your chance, you can do it,’" Countess said. "He was in my same shoes one day, so he’s just helped me through this."

Countess learned he had earned his first start against Purdue midweek. He reminded himself, "The time is here, and I just have to make the most of it.'"

He responded superbly, blanketing the Purdue receivers with the kind of aggressive, physical coverage for which he's become known. He had only three tackles, but that mostly was a function of Boilermakers quarterbacks avoiding him all together.

Iowa picked on him a little more last week, and Countess responded with mixed results.

"There’s a couple plays that I wish he had back, but he made some really good plays," Mattison said. "He’s a young freshman that went in there and did some good things.”

Countess often found himself defending star Hawkeyes receiver Marvin McNutt, who had a 6-inch height advantage in the matchup. The freshman didn't back down, though, and outperformed fellow starting corner J.T. Floyd in covering the senior.

Now, he'll try to turn the page on that performance as he gears up to face another imposing wideout in A.J. Jenkins of Illinois, which Michigan (7-2, 3-2) plays at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC.

"I learned early on that having a short memory, as a cornerback, is definitely a positive," Countess said. "If you get down on yourself, it’ll show in your play directly."

His rapid assent up the depth chart, and the poise he's shown along the way, has coaches expecting big things from Countess. Given a couple years of seasoning, it's not hard to imagine him evolving into something Michigan hasn't had in a few years:

A shut down corner who battles exclusively against an offense's No. 1 receiver.

"I was here when we did that," he said, referring to when he coached Charles Woodson during his Heisman Trophy season in 1997. "That day will come.

“I’ve said all along, the one thing about (Countess) that you feel like he has a chance to be pretty darn good is he doesn’t have a conscience. The play’s over, and he’s ready for the next play.

"That’s what the great ones all have.”

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.


Matt Patercsak

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:11 a.m.

players with the brightest future as it stands right now Blake Countess: corner back (a couple more pounds and maybe an inch of growth would put him in the national spotlight) Jake Ryan: linebacker (already a playmaker on defense, he is impressive. hope he keeps the cowboy collar too! good look!) Desmond Morgan: linebacker (big, fast, downhill, this kid needs to continue to grow. he could be special) Brennen Beyer: Defensive end (my guess is he'll look like Pat Massey by his senior year, better get on the hot n' ready diet!) Stephen Hopkins: Fullback (he should gain 10 pounds of muscle by his senior year, he's already impressed me with his blocking) Taylor Lewan: Left Tackle (with a cool head and leadership role, he could be another jake long) Fitz Toussaint: Tailback (if he stays healthy, obviously) Thomas Rawls: Tailback (he NEEDS to get reps, i cant wait for him to start getting real carries in games. I'm already excited for his spring game next season!) in their senior seasons, each of these players should be real forces to reckon with. I'm excited to see how they compete with the incoming talent next year maybe with all these lineman coming in we can burn a redshirt on the best one and use him in 6 lineman overloads!! BEEF MACHINE!!!

Matt Patercsak

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.

also, schematically things would be a lot different. we'd be running the 3'3'5 and getting murked by everyone. we would have lost to purdue, notre dame, and northwestern

Matt Patercsak

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

hopkins would still be low on the depth chart at running back (not a fullback) jake ryan would not be playing, (cam gordon would) thomas rawls was not a rich rod recruit, neither was morgan, countess or beyer.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 5:36 a.m.

I think these guys are all RR recruits so that should end the idea that he left the cubbard bare and hoke needs three or four years to rebuild.

Larry Eiler

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

Troy Woolfolk's handling of this situation and coaching of Countess means we're back to the real "Michigan Man" style. Troy is commended for the way he works with Blake -- encouraging and a real Blue stature. Nice job Troy!

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 7:39 p.m.

This kid seems to be for real. I think he's going to be playing on Sundays soon enough.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

Mattison's use of the term conscience makes no sense in this context. Conscience is an aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment of the intellect that distinguishes right from wrong. Perhaps Mattison's message could have been more clearly conveyed had he replaced 'conscience' with 'short term memory.'


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 6:10 p.m.

The nice thing for Countess, as naturally talented as he may be, is that he, unlike many recent Wolverines before him, will benefit from coaching and technique teaching from a coach the caliber of Mattison. He has the tools, and the opportunity through coaching and teaching, to be special. Best of luck to him.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 3:42 p.m.

I see this has been changed from "Off the field, though, Countess is conscious of it all" to "Off the field, though, Countess is conscience of it all." .... I hate to be the scolding middle school English teacher on this one, but can you please explain how someone can be "conscience" of it all? Conscience is a noun. Do you mean conscientious? But that still doesn't make sense in context...whatever though, I guess it's just a blog after all.

Rich Rezler

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 4:12 p.m.

That error has been corrected. Thanks.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

Yes guessed it.... Countess for heisman 2012!! This prediction is compliments of the MEANgoblue- Bo- George -Patten crystal ball!! MEEEEEEEEEANchigan football is again on the rise!! Young Blake Countess is a 2012 heisman suprise!!

Tony Dearing

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

A comment was removed because it was off-topic.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 2 p.m.

Before Countess is annointed the next Charles Woodson let's do keep in mind that he is starting out with a three inch 20+ pound disadvantage. Skills can be taught and honed but like quickness and speed, you can't teach a 5'10" player to be 6'1". That said, I look forward to seeing Countess coming off the corner in a blitz package. Something only a shutdown corner can easily get away with.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

I've been very impressed with Countess. He seems to "get" how to cover people correctly. The last true freshman corner I saw come in here like him was Leon hall, who also played a lot his first year. He has a very bright future. I keep dreaming of the day Michigan has two really good cornerbacks at the same time. Usually, we have one good one, and one guy who gets burned all the time. It might be 1997 was the last year.

Adam Zeeb

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 12:47 p.m.

Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison likes to say that, on the field, star freshman cornerback Blake Countess "has no conscious." Really? Is that what he said? It seems like he would have a hard time playing football if he wasn't councscious. Perhaps you mean conscience...


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

But do you really expect that someone is actually proofreading these articles? Come on, man, unsupervised 20-somethings don't make mistakes!


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

If Mattison *says* that, how do you know what spelling he's using?