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August 22, 2012Last season, Michigan wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski continually stressed the importance of physical play, especially in the run game.
And his receivers took that message to heart, going as far as making a game out of knocking defensive backs to the ground. Whoever tallied the most knockdowns was that week's winner.
The Wolverines are now deep in the throes of fall camp, and the knockdown competition is back.
But it's more of a corps-wide exercise than an individual competition in 2012.
"If we get a knockdown, we'll come back to the sideline and tell everyone about it," Michigan redshirt junior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon said. "As long as we get a defensive back down, we all win. It's fun."
The Wolverine pass catchers have set a high bar for the season. They want to rack up 18 knockdowns a game.
And, in order to do that, they've had to ramp up the intensity in practice.
"Our receivers are very physical, as far as blocking goes," Sophomore cornerback Blake Countess said. "And I think that gives them a good look, too. I don't think I'm a target, but they have definitely come at me with some force.
"It's a dogfight out there. I think that's the good thing about our receivers, they give us a great look. They could just run by us and take it easy, but they bring it."
Going through his second fall camp, Countess is more comfortable with the entire process.
"Last year, I didn't really know what to expect from camp," I didn't know my coaches too well, and this camp, I have more connection with my coaches and teammates. It's a different feel, where I can just focus on getting better, and that's special."
Before the season last year, Countess sat down and wrote out a list of goals he wanted to accomplish before the end of the season, including a minimum number of tackles, interceptions and starts.
He reached every goal on the list - except interceptions. He is still looking for his first one.
"I definitely think about making plays," Countess said. "Interceptions, as a DB, are kind of what you're graded on. As far as making plays, I do feel like I do need to make more big plays and interceptions is something I think about a lot.
"It's just about being in proper position so you can make a play on the ball."
He plans to write out a similar list of goals before the trip to Dallas.
"The No.1 goal will be to win the Big Ten championship," Countess said. Right now I'm just focused on getting better as a team and finishing fall camp strong."
"I've learned a tremendous amount from him," Countess said. "Just little things as far as technique. Just anything, I would go to him about schoolwork, anything.
"I'm so grateful, I can't begin to explain. It's special. He's still here, and he's been through it. So I can go to him for guidance.
"We just clicked from the beginning, and it keeps getting stronger and stronger."