ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan coach Brady Hoke has a saying: The dumbest players on the team are the freshmen, but the biggest problems are sophomores who played as freshmen.
There weren't too many true freshman impact players in the Wolverines' lineup last season, but there was one who made a significant amount of noise on the field -- cornerback Blake Countess. And now he's back for his sophomore season and is hoping not to be one of the problems to which Hoke was referring.
The 5-foot-10 cornerback is working to secure a starting role once again but is finding himself in the thick of the secondary competition with J.T. Floyd, Terrence Talbott, Raymon Taylor and Delonte Hollowell.
Because of that competition, Countess hasn't been able to be complacent, and the coaches are seeing that he isn't going to be a problem this season.
"Blake has been very hungry," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "He wants to get better, and that's something you always worry about when you have a guy who had a pretty good freshman year. What's he going to be like this next year? Again, that won't happen here. We won't allow that to happen here. But we haven't had to guard against that with him. He's come out every day and worked hard."
As a freshman, Countess started six games for Michigan and recorded 30 solo tackles, the fourth most on the team. He had six pass breakups, second only to Floyd. But in the final two games of the season, Countess made a few errors that resulted in big plays for Ohio State and Virginia Tech.
It was in those games where people started wondering if the length of the season or the pressures of the position had gotten to the freshman, though Countess said neither was the case.
According to Countess, those big plays were a result of "bad eyes" or not seeing the reads well enough.
"I don't know the exact place [my eyes were]," he said with a smile. "I just know they weren't where they were supposed to be when they needed to be there."
Countess said the coaches got on him about it and he has been working to fix those issues since last season. For Countess, that meant a lot more film study so he could learn how to avoid the issues that brought the negative attention on him in that final stretch.
"The thing with a corner is you can have a whole bunch of really good plays and practices and just slip up once, and everyone on that field sees it," Mattison said. "You're really looking for the guy that never slips up. That's the deal. That's what happens at that position."
During the spring practices, Countess has been working to correct the little things that made the big mistakes so that he can be a better cornerback this upcoming season.
"I just know that I have to keep getting better," Countess said. "It's the expectation for playing corner here at the University of Michigan. I just have to keep getting better and keep working on my craft."