"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
"The experience he has from last year is starting to show," Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said. "He’s making shots, and he made some gutsy plays against Portland. He’s got a confidence about him that he can get the job done."
Conference play has come, and Big Ten teams can safely retreat to their thunderdomes to clobber each other in peace, insulated from the braying mockery of the national media. There is still upheaval. Michigan has fallen apart. Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke have been confined to the Touliers Palace.
Tom reports that Maryland DB Blake Countess has committed to Michigan, the fourth defensive back in the Wolverines' class of 2011.
4*, #18 CB, #228 Overall
4*, 5.8, #13 CB, #156 Overall
4*, 80, #14 CB
Countess is another little guy joining the defensive backfield, as all three sites list him at 5-10, and within a couple pounds of 175. He's also a participant in the US Army All-American Bowl, which gives a brief breakdown of his game:
Countess has the smooth hips and backpedal ability to be the prototypical cover corner. Despite his size, he loves to hit and is strong enough to jam a receiver at the line or come up and assist in run support. Countess has the speed to stay with receivers in man-to-man coverage and has an advanced understanding of zone defenses. Countess’ speed is also an asset in the return game.
Countess is steady and heady cornerback prospect with natural cover corner skills. Very fluid through his hips and transitions in and out of his pedal smoothly. Aggressive with receivers off the line and plays bigger. Shows good coverage awareness skills; reading routes and the quarterback accurately.
As with most shorter guys, the evaluation determines whether he plays "bigger than his size," and decides he does:
Lacks ideal height but is a real competitor for the football in the contested jump-ball matchup. Soundly times his jump, displays good leaping skills and appears very comfortable around the ball in coverage.
He's an okay tackler, which you'd expect from a smaller guy (ask Courtney Avery). Overall, ESPN, says he's a good-not-great prospect:
Countess is not elite in one particular area but is very well-rounded, reliable and consistent. Brings some intangibles to the position and should fit into a number of defensive schemes at the next level.
A strong, hard hitting defensive back, Countess does a good job of jamming his receiver at the line of scrimmage. Flips his hips well to run with a receiver. An asset in the run game because of his willingness to make a hit. Size and skill set of a cornerback with the mentality of a safety. Comes out of his breaks and closes on the ball very well. Not the biggest DB on the field, but usually one of the toughest - Scott Kennedy, Scout.com.
The only area for improvement they list is "size," which he can only do so much about. He'll spend a lot of time adding muscle in the weight room, but isn't going to get a whole lot taller. He tells Scout that he didn't have any interceptions his junior year, sorta making him the opposite of Dallas Crawford.
"Countess showed real physical toughness and a willingness to come up and hit in game action, something we questioned based on his size," Farrell said. "He's as fluid as we thought, very smooth and an all-around terrific cornerback."
Rivals also says something that sounds a lot like Rich Rodriguez's famous "loves football" line:
He is a classic overachiever that should outperform and outwork his opponents.
If you're an East Coast school, you probably offered this kid. Georgia Tech, Maryland, NC State, UVa, Wake Forest, and Duke are among the many offers for this Maryland product. Clemson and South Carolina also showed interest.
However, some non-Eastern schools also offered him a scholarship. Arkansas, Louisville, Purdue, Stanford, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin (before his junior season), Cincinnati, Illinois, Notre Dame, and Pitt were among them.
This was a highly coveted recruit, as the offer sheet shows. He ultimately picked Michigan over Georgia Tech and Maryland, a final group that belies his strong offer sheet.
His Scout profile has some (imprecise) junior year stats:
Blake Countess finished his junior season with over 50 tackles and returned one kick for a touchdown.
Senior year... there's not a ton of info out there. I'll update in next week's Friday Night Lights.
He struggled against Cincinnati St. Xavier, dropping a punt, but was good in coverage.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout and Rivals are in agreement on his speed, almost to the hundredth of a second. Scout says 4.47, while Rivals credits him with a 4.48. That level of specificity leads me to believe the time is combine-verified and reliable. His highlight video (embedded below) mentions that it's electronically-timed.
I'm left with no choice but to give a mere one FAKE out of five.
Here's the first half of his final high school season:
You can see his junior and sophomore combined highlights here.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
When player evaluations can focus on little other than a player's diminutive size, the first thing that comes to mind is a sure redshirt. For Countess, that's no different, especially since Michigan has had big defensive hauls in 2010 and so far in 2011. He needs to get in the weight room before he can play at this level.
After a redshirt year (or a year spending time almost exclusively on special teams), he'll slowly work his way into the lineup over the course of a couple years. He probably won't have a chance to be one of the starting corners until he's an upperclassman, but there are so many variables between now and then that it's hard to project.
As an upperclassman starter, he has the potential to be a fringe All-Conference candidate, but I don't think he's likely to contend for All-American honors unless he can develop quite a bit under good coaching.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Countess becomes the fourth defensive back to commit to Michigan for this season, meaning there may be some shuffling in positions of players currently on the roster or in the class. Dallas Crawford is a high school safety, for example, and Greg Brown could fill a hybrid role if he keeps growing.
Despite the abundance of players back there, Michigan's coaches are likely to look for at least one more DB, a top free safety like Wayne Lyons - though other options are thin on the ground. Beyond that, defensive tackle, linebacker, and one more offensive lineman remain the focuses for filling the class.
With the rate Michigan is going after corners, I wouldn't be surprised if they look at Crawford as a free safety. He's doesn't have optimal size for the position, but he's a ballhawk and that's what he plays in high school.
Don't kid yourself. the timeline is effecting recruiting. Dallas Crawford is apparently re-openning his college choice. So one in, one out. Plus Dee Hart was supposed to be early enroll. that's not going to happen now.