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Tuesday Morning Brews: Checking On Blake

Plenty more Big Ten highlights, plus checking up on an old friend.

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For Blake Countess, An Old Hat

Long, long ago, a scrawny, fast kid named Blake Countess was one of Michigan's most heralded recruits in the 2011 class. The Maryland product made it to Ann Arbor, roomed with senior corner Troy Woolfork, who took him under his wing, and got to work. In the fourth game of that 2011 season, Woolfork aggravated an ankle injury. Blake went in.

"As a true freshman, sometimes guys get those wide eyes when they come onto the field," said senior defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen. "But [Blake] reminds me of a guy like Donovan Warren when he first came in. He's very focused, he has a swagger about him and he's very confident."

In less than a quarter against San Diego State, the replacement to Troy Woolfork picked up seven tackles and a PBU. Soon, he was starting over the senior, and just like that, Countess was on a fast track to becoming Michigan's next great corner.

The start of the next year, Countess injured his knee in the first quarter against Alabama, before even playing a down on defense. He rebounded in 2013, at least up until the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, but 2014 saw more struggles. After contributing to 10 victories as a freshman, Countess would play in 26 more games as a Wolverine. The record in that time: 12-14. For Blake, it felt like time to move on.

A lot of schools came courting, but Auburn had a number of things in their favor. For one, it's where his best friend was going to school. He also knew some of the guys on Auburn's roster. Then, there was Coach Muschamp, and a likely chance he would start. Being a part of the Alabama-Auburn rivalry was intriguing, too.

"It just seemed like the perfect fit," Countess said in a press conference to the media. "They had a big need at the position, and when I came on my visit, I really bonded with the guys here, and felt like we could do something special. And that's what I wanted to be a part of, was something special."

Unfortunately, like several before it, Countess' 2015 season hasn't gone according to plan. After spending his first three games at corner, Blake Countess switched to safety, where he's started every game since. Despite lending a physical presence to the middle, the Tigers have stumbled to a 5-5 overall record and 2-5 in conference. Now, Auburn is looking at a November gimme against Idaho just to reach bowl eligibility. That's a little less than what Blake had envisioned, but there's still a statement game with Alabama on the horizon - a game that Blake will want to finally finish.

"Is it tough for you to keep your head up?" he got asked this week.

"I've been through ups and downs," Blake admitted. "I was on pretty good teams at Michigan so - it comes with it. [You've got to just] focus on you, focus on your team and how you can help."

Blake understands his role as a mentor of a young secondary, and also as a stop-gap while four blue-chip freshmen get their feet wet and at least two blue-chip 2016 recruits cycle into the program. And in a full-blown transition period for Auburn's defense, Countess has been an undeniable bright spot for a Tigers team in need of play-making. It's a role that Blake was already familiar with.

Hitting the Links Is A Returner

Presser Bullets: Michigan State

A name to know will be OSU's right tackle Chase Farris, who struggled last week against Illinois. Urban Meyer insisted Farris wasn't going to get pulled for Jamarco Jones, but sounded cautiously optimistic: "For the most part, [Chase] has done fine, but he's got a big week ahead of him because the guys he's going to be facing are really, really good."

Jim Harbaugh Compares November Football to Morning Basketball

Someone needs to start making Jim Harbaugh fortune cookies, with motivational messages inside them. Except only Harbaugh could come up with these.

Iowa Grabs The Floyd of Rosedale | The Final Touchdown

Kirk Ferentz sounded grumpy about Iowa's "Blackout" uniforms, but they looked real sharp.

"The only pressure any of us are feeling right now is to not let each other down," said Ferentz after the game.

One-Handed Grab for MacGarrett Kings, Jr.

Maryland got some revenge for this catch later in the quarter, when Maryland's A.J. Hendy laid him out on a crossing route. Kings has been a quiet but steady X-factor for Michigan State's offense, and he's been getting more looks the last few weeks.

Perry Hills Interception | Caleb Rowe Interception

Perry Hills is a mesmerizing runner, but his skills as a quarterback are rough at best - a lot of inaccurate throws, and not a lot of arm strength. Unfortunately, he's been the better quarterback in College Park.

TD INT Completion % Pass Yards/Game Yards/Play Sacks
Perry Hills: JR 8 12 50.0% 140.7 5.41 15
Caleb Rowe: JR 5 15 43.9% 81.0 4.79 1

This offense has lacked creativity for a while*, and the next coach - if they have a good playbook - will be able to get some good things from the play-makers. Two more four-stars are also coming to College Park next year.

* Mike Locksley has started using Will Likely on offense, which is a step in the right direction. But they also haven't been doing it as well as they could, so I can't give too much credit for making the decision to use your best guy on both sides of the ball.

Penn State's Quirky Front Four Has Personality

Penn State ranks 47th in the nation in run defense, a pretty drastic drop from last year's mark of third. Mike Hull hasn't been replaced, and they're trying to skate by with no depth.

On a positive note, Christian Hackenberg has undergone a Rudockian growth spurt lately. He's looking more fluid in the pocket, showing sriracha on most of his passes and reading the plays quickly. It's a lot easier to gush about his physical gifts when he's putting the ball in the right spot at the right time.

Physical Run By Markell Jones

There have been some positives for Purdue in the midst of all the losing, and the play of Markell Jones has been one of them. Jones has made plays like this one on a weekly basis, and the best part for Purdue fans is he's only a freshman. Fun fact: his senior year of high school he rushed for 3,565 yards on only 312 carries.

Great Play By Joey Bosa

If you were wondering who replaced Randy Gregory as the Big Ten lineman that offensive coordinators have to scheme around, the answer would be Bosa. Teams have just stopped trying to challenge him.

Rutgers Observations: Flood Booed

The pressure is on. Big Ten fans are figuring out they can demand better from ADs.

Officiating A Story Of Minnesota-Iowa

They need to work on re-training officials this off-season. This isn't to pile on the refs, who have plenty of responsibilities and many eyes to critique their decisions. But this is also a matter of maintaining the integrity of the game. Refs have to do their job well and consistently.

Claeys is referring to injuries, which have really hurt Minnesota's defense. Their young guys have looked pretty good, but health leading up to the Wisconsin game is key. There's also a game this week against Illinois that's a lot trickier than it might look.

Wisconsin Roundtable: Talking Badgers' Defense

Speaking of, Minnesota-Wisconsin will be a blast: Stave vs. Boddy-Calhoun and Murray, Mitch Leidner vs. Joe Schobert, K.J. Maye against Sojourn Shelton. Neither team has been satisfied with their season, but there's a chance to go into December with something to feel good about.

Northwestern Opens As Double-Digit Underdog To Wisconsin

The Wildcats' recruiting strategy for 2016 has been full underdog - reaching into Ohio, Michigan, Texas, and Florida for the players that are pretty good but not getting chased by the state powers. One exception: a four-star safety from Missouri.

Grading NU's Players After A 21-14 Win Over Purdue

Fitz opted to ram the ball at Purdue, with 24 total pass attempts and twice as many running plays. Between the fact that Purdue's best asset on defense is their defensive line, and that Thorson was really inaccurate on easy throws, I suspect the game plan was designed to protect a banged-up quarterback.

Montee Ball's Record Broken

I've said this before, but it's a cool stat. For the week after Melvin Gordon's 408 yards against Nebraska, Wisconsin running backs had the career touchdowns record (Ball), the record for most rushing yards in a game (MG3), and the record for most career rushing yards (Ron Dayne). Highlights for all three gentlemen are linked.

Bill O'Brien Interested In Maryland?

This report has since been refuted, and from what I've gathered it would be surprising if O'Brien left Houston this off-season.

Ameer Abdullah Kick Return

An NFL highlight in the mix - Abdullah makes an exciting play for the Detroit Lions. Overall, Ameer has produced sparingly but played an important role as a reserve for Jim Caldwell's Lions. On the other side of the Lions-Packers game, Jared Abbrederis got his first career catch for Green Bay.

Wisconsin Lands Commitment From Basketball Player

This is some clever stuff by Paul Chryst. Quintez Cephus, who would be a guard on the hardwood, shows soft hands in the passing game and the ability to juke out defenders in space. He'll probably play wide receiver at the next level. The Georgia native is totally unranked by all the sites, but I'd probably give him a three-star grade with a lot of room to grow.