Coming out of Olney (MD) Good Counsel, Countess was a Rivals 4-star and the #133 player nationally in the 2011 class. I gave him a TTB Rating of 84 (LINK) and was pleased with his commitment (LINK), which took place shortly before Rich Rodriguez was fired. I thought he would be Michigan's next good corner after Donovan Warren departed in 2009.
Countess played immediately as a freshman in 2011 and started six games that year, finishing with 44 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 6 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble. ESPN and the Big Ten Network included him on their conference all-freshman teams. Entering the 2012 season as a starter, Countess got injured playing special teams in the season opener against Alabama and missed the rest of the year with a torn ACL. He came back with a vengeance in 2013, making First Team All-Big Ten with 46 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 6 interceptions (1 touchdown), and 4 pass breakups. Big things were expected, but his production fell off (24 tackles, 3 pass breakups) and he saw diminished playing time in 2014.
Rumors started to pop up about Countess potentially transferring around the same time Wayne Lyons appeared headed to Michigan. Essentially, the defensive backfield was getting crowded with talented and/or veteran players - Countess, Lyons, junior Jourdan Lewis, sophomore Jabrill Peppers, and senior Jarrod Wilson are all starting-caliber players, and a couple other guys are pushing for playing time. Countess is not a physical corner, and new defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin's preferred style of defense did not seem primed to mesh with Countess's. Even so, Countess would have seen plenty of playing time even if he didn't start.
But a 4-star guy in his fifth year - a guy who had 6 picks in one season a couple years ago - should probably be starting somewhere. A player of his caliber has an eye on the NFL, and the NFL doesn't draft many college backups. It's somewhat understandable that Countess would look to transfer to a more amenable situation.
Unfortunately, this transfer comes at the expense of Michigan's quality depth. There's likely no question that the two front-runners for the cornerback jobs are Lewis and Lyons, but the only experienced backup is junior Channing Stribling, who has yet to make a significant play despite a fair amount of time on the field. The position is supplemented by redshirt junior Terry Richardson, redshirt sophomore Ross Taylor-Douglas, redshirt sophomore Reon Dawson, and redshirt freshman Brandon Watson, none of whom have registered a single stat. Furthermore, the lone cornerback in the 2015 class is lanky project Keith Washington. There appears to be a serious deficit in cornerback talent when you get younger than Lewis, although Watson has some potential.
Five years later, linebacker Desmond Morgan is the only player remaining from the 2011 class, which was the Rodriguez-to-Hoke transition year. Attrition can be expected from classes with that kind of instability, but too many players played early and exhausted their eligibility this past season.