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August 3, 2014

Blake Countess played through injury but is healthy for 2014

Blake Countess had a secret in 2013. The redshirt junior was playing hurt for most of the season, suffering from an abdominal issue that required offseason surgery.

"I played through it," said Countess, who played through it well enough to earn All-Big Ten first-team honors. "It limited my movement, speed, things like that. Not anything you guys [in the media] could have recognized but I didn't feel like myself completely on game days or through the week practicing.

"I had a decent season last year, but it was definitely something I was voicing to my coaches and my trainers. We dealt with it and we're moving forward now."

Countess underwent surgery in May, but he said he is good to go as preseason practice opens up tomorrow.

"I recovered fine and I'm 100 percent going into camp," he said, before joking, "I don't know if I feel superhuman but I definitely feel better, feel healthy."

Countess led the Big Ten with six interceptions a year ago, adding 46 tackles, two for loss, in 13 starts. This spring he found himself battling, however, just to retain his starting spot as sophomore Jourdan Lewis pressed the 5-10, 180-pound Countess and senior incumbent starter Ray Taylor for reps.

"I think it will be a healthy competition for everyone in the secondary," he said. "As far as the corners, we know that we have to come to play every day.

"When you have talent like we have at that position, that's what's going to happen. That's expected here at the University of Michigan, and me and Ray both know that.

"It's just a matter of the young guys are better [than they were last season]. But we help each other out. There is no negative competition. We're still a group and whoever is out there will be supported by the cornerback position."

Even if that is a freshman - in this case five-star rookie Jabrill Peppers - taking a senior's spot.

"I haven't seen him practice much - we don't work out with the freshmen - but he's definitely a high energy guy, someone that had a lot of talent in high school so we're hoping he can come in and contribute and help us win games," Countess said.

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