Blake Countess finds niche as a starting corner


Michigan football: Notebook

Angelique S. Chengelis/ The Detroit News

Ann Arbor— Blake Countess already exhibits at least one characteristic of the “great ones.”

Countess, a freshman making his third start at cornerback for Michigan against at Illinois on Saturday, has played in all but one game and has 33 tackles, an interception and five pass breakups.

“When you’re a corner, that’s a tough job out there,” defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “For him to compete, and I’ve said this all along, the one thing about him that you feel like he’s got a chance to be pretty darn good is he doesn’t have a conscience. That play’s over with, and he’s ready for the next play.

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

But no one is confusing Countess with former Michigan cornerback and Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson. Not yet, at least.

Still, he has been a pleasant surprise for Brady Hoke and the defensive staff.

“In fall camp, watching him move around with his willingness and eagerness to learn, his athleticism … that’s what you need out there,” Hoke said Wednesday. “He’s got a good amount of makeup speed that you have to have at a corner position. He’s tough, he’s physical, he’s not afraid to throw his body around.”

For Countess, who took over for senior Troy Woolfolk, who moved to safety, playing this season always was his goal.

“I just came in and worked hard,” he said. “I got a lot of advice from some of the older guys, Troy Woolfolk, J.T. Floyd, guys in the secondary helped me a lot.”

Woolfolk, Countess’ roommate during preseason camp, said last week he was happy to move to safety.

In fact, during camp, Countess said Woolfolk offered a valuable piece of advice.

“‘When you get your chance, just do it,'” Countess said, recounting Woolfolk’s words.

He said he learned early on the advantage of playing without a conscience.

“You’ve got to think about the next play,” Countess said. “It’s over with and done with. You can’t have it back.”

Paterno reaction

Hoke opened his pre-practice remarks with a brief statement regarding Penn State coach Joe Paterno .

“The one thing I can tell you, I have the utmost respect for what Coach Paterno has done on the field,” Hoke said. “It’s really a situation that’s obviously unfortunate.”

Hoke declined to answer additional questions.

Injury report

Left guard Ricky Barnum (ankles) practiced some Tuesday. “He’ll play,” Hoke said.

… Hoke, on linebacker Kenny Demens (hamstring): “(Demens has) been playing with this for a while.”

Demens leads the team in tackles with 66.

Extra points

The Wolverines offensive scout team was expected to hold on every play Tuesday.

“It’s like bear-hugging you off the line of scrimmage,” defensive lineman Mike Martin said, laughing. “You have to have perfect technique.”

… Hoke said it’s an ongoing competition between Thomas Gordon and Troy Woolfolk .

Michiganat Illinois

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.

TV/radio: ABC/WWJ, WTKA

Records: Michigan 7-2 (3-2 Big Ten Legends), Illinois 6-3 (2-3 Big Ten Leaders)

Line: Michigan by 1

Series: Michigan leads 67-23-2 (Michigan 67-65, 3OT, Nov. 6, 2010)

Did you know? Last year at Michigan Stadium, the teams set several Big Ten offensive records, including points (132) and total yards (1,237).

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