Weight: 180 lbs.
High school: Olney (MD) Good Counsel
Jersey number: #18
Last year: I ranked Countess #59 and said he would be a backup cornerback. He started six games and 44 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 6 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble.
Countess parlayed a series of nagging Troy Woolfolk injuries into a starting cornerback job, and performed well enough to keep that job once Woolfolk was close to full strength again. I thought that Countess would have to wait a little longer (until, say, 2012) to take over one of the cornerback spots, but it happened almost immediately. For the most part, he performed well and turned into Michigan's best bet for a shut-down corner in the last several years. He did get torched against Ohio State and was beaten for a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl, but overall, he had a pretty good season for a true freshman. ESPN and the Big Ten Network each named him to the league's all-freshman team.
Michigan's entire secondary returns in 2012, including the corner on the opposite side, J.T. Floyd. Countess plays the field side, which is usually reserved for a guy with a little more speed . . . but the coaches have also mentioned that Countess is the more physical corner of the two. At a pretty solid 180 lbs., Countess has the strength to play press man coverage and support the run with equal aplomb. He didn't have any interceptions last season, but he did steal a pass from Devin Gardner to Jeremy Jackson in the spring game. The two corners might be the second-best duo in the Big Ten, and either one could earn all-conference honors of some sort. There isn't much depth at the cornerback spots now that Terrence Talbott and Tamani Carter (the latter of whom was a free safety but could have played corner in a pinch) have left the team. If Countess goes down for a significant period of time, we might see Courtney Avery bump out from the slot corner position or see some snaps from 162 lb. true freshman Terry Richardson. Avery could hack it out there, but after that, things get very shaky. Recent injuries to Floyd and Woolfolk notwithstanding, it seems like cornerback is a less physically taxing position than some other spots, so hopefully Countess can stay healthy and take the next step toward becoming an All-Big Ten corner.
Prediction: Starting field corner; 55 tackles, 2 interceptions
Poll results: Countess won 81% of the vote for the #9 spot.