April 14, 2012

Countess' pick highlights D's day

Michigan's secondary won't be able to put together a highlight reel from the spring game, although it allowed just one pass of more than 20 yards and picked off another. But the Wolverines like what they have in the back end.

Sophomore Blake Countess grabbed the spotlight early in the spring scrimmage, slicing in front of a receiver to pick off a Devin Gardner pass. U-M defensive coordinator Greg Mattison noted he's been pleased with Countess this spring.

The one worry Mattison harbors about freshmen who experience early success is that they might slack off. He hasn't seen that in Countess, who jumped on his chance to create a turnover in Michigan's final spring scrimmage.

Meanwhile, the secondary kept the big plays to a bare minimum, and some - such as junior safety Marvin Robinson - made their presence known. Robinson should have been credited for a touch-sack on a play that was called an incompletion during the scrimmage, but found himself around the football a number of times.

The Wolverines return four starters to the defensive backfield from last season, in Countess, fellow cornerback and fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd, fifth-year senior safety Jordan Kovacs and redshirt junior Thomas Gordon. But Kovacs and Gordon both assure they're getting pushed hard from others, meaning the Wolverines should have some very solid depth in the fall.

"It's great to have four guys coming back," Kovacs acknowledged. "Any time you have experience in the defensive backfield, especially, it's important. Those are some big positions back there.

"But at the same time, every year, everybody gets a fresh slate. What you did in the past is old news. They all understand we've got to continue to compete. That's something Coach Hoke emphasizes - nobody has got a job until September 1, the first game.

"Guys that have made a push include [junior] Terrence Talbott, and [sophomore] Ray Taylor - I think he made some great strides this spring. He's one of those guys that has really impressed me. [Freshman] Jarrod Wilson, Marvin Robinson, you could go down the list. They've all made plays."

Meanwhile, Kovacs noted, players like Countess haven't taken a step back.

"Blake is one of those guys who has had a big spring, and we expected that out of him," Kovacs said. "He had a lot of playing time last year. He's improved this spring, and he's still going to continue to improve. He's just a young cat, but we expect a lot out of him this season."

Hoke challenged Gordon coming into the spring to play with a greater level of reckless abandon. The veteran assures he knows precisely what the head coach is looking for, and felt like he turned it loose a bit more this spring.

"Him and Coach Mattison just stay on my back about it all the time," Gordon noted. "Watching film and evaluating myself from last year, it's like a whole different story this spring.

"I'm playing a lot faster, cutting it loose. When I see something, I just go get it. I trust my eyes."

Gordon, like Kovacs, appreciates the balance between those who have been on the field extensively and those pushing for more time, such as junior cornerback Courtney Avery and a host of others.

"We're looking to make a whole lot more plays this year," Gordon said. "With Marvin and Jarrod behind us, they've been working hard. We've got a lot of depth, and with the freshmen coming in this summer, we should be really deep."

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