The Wolverine

May 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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running into struggles against both Ohio State in the regular-season fi- nale and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. Those imperfect efforts have motivated Countess. "I just know I have to keep getting better," he said. "There's an expec- tation of playing corner here at the University of Michigan. I just have to keep working and getting better at my craft." Mattison is glad to hear his pupil speak with such conviction, and was even more pleased he practiced this spring like a man that had not even seen the field during his first season. "I'm always leery of a freshman that has success, and Blake has come out every day trying to improve and trying to become a better football player," Mattison said. "He hasn't shown any signs of a guy thinking he's arrived. "We won't allow something like that to happen here, but we haven't had to guard against that happening with him. He has come out every day and worked hard." tice, Michigan's coaches turn the re- sponsibility of improvement over to the Wolverines' seniors. These next few months will be even more im- portant than the past month in de- veloping the technique, strength and stamina this team will need to chal- lenge Alabama in the 2012 season opener and to contend for the Big Ten title that has eluded U-M since 2004. "We've got to improve a great deal With the conclusion of spring prac- ON THEIR OWN Sophomore cornerback Blake Countess, who made six starts last season, grabbed an inter- ception in the spring game. he does, you kind of hesitate because you don't want a ball carrier to run by you. But there are times you can go hit that because you've got a cor- ner and another safety playing be- hind you, so if you miss him some- body else will make that play. "I think he's understanding that a PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL little bit. 'I get it. I get it.' Plus, give yourself a little credit, you can run pretty well, and don't think every- body's going to outrun you. I think that's knowing yourself, this scheme, that will allow him to play faster." Troy Woolfolk for three of four No- vember contests last season because he often played tentative, but the benching, and the continued straight talk from Mattison, appears to have sunk in with the emerging leader. "I'm looking forward to being ac- countable," Gordon said. Countess started six games at cor- nerback during his rookie campaign, the most by a U-M true freshman at that position since Donovan Warren started 11 in 2007, and dazzled, until Gordon lost his job to teammate over the summer," Mattison said. "The good news is that our program believes in working very hard in the summer, and not just lifting weights. So I think we'll make a lot of gains this summer." If the four weeks of spring ball were indicative of what this defense is ca- pable of, with continued maturation, the Maize and Blue will be a force. "We are already better than we were last year," Thomas Gordon said. "We are day and night from the end of last season. We are a lot faster on defense, especially getting to the football. "We all know what we have to do to be successful this fall, and we are look forward to doing our job and making big plays. "I think this defense is going to have a lot of fun this season." ❏ MAY 2012 THE WOLVERINE 31

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