ANN ARBOR -- Around this time a year ago, Blake Countess was making a list. As a freshman cornerback from suburban Baltimore, he arrived on campus at the University of Michigan and he visualized and cataloged the goals he set for himself in his first year with the Wolverines' football team.
With nine days remaining until Michigan's season opener Sept. 1 against Alabama, Countess admitted earlier this week that he has yet to actually sit down and make a similar docket for his sophomore season.
But he has a good idea of where to begin.
"The No. 1 goal will be to win the Big Ten championship," Countess said.
Countess returns to the Wolverines after a freshman season in which he had 44 tackles in 12 games, including six starts, and was named to the All-Big Ten freshman team.
Stepping in for the injured Troy Woolfork in the second quarter of a 28-7 win over San Diego State last September, Countess finished with seven tackles (five solo, two assisted) and became a factor in Michigan's defense.
There is one notable absence among Countess' statistics. He didn't record an interception in his first season at Michigan (the Wolverines had only nine interceptions in 13 games last season), but he considers the bigger picture. Still, that absence is on his mind.
"I think about making plays," Countess said. "Interceptions, it's something that as a DB, it's kind of what you're graded on. So, as far as making plays, I do need to make more plays, and interceptions, it's something I think about a lot."
But he's not going out of his way to get in front of a pass. He won't force a play, either.
"It's just all about being in proper position and being able to make a play on the ball," Countess said. "If you're in better position, then you'll be able to have a better chance to make a play on the ball."
Countess also has experience in his favor. He admits that last year he wasn't sure what to expect of preseason camp.
"I really didn't know my coaches all too well, but this camp, I have a little bit more comfortability with my coaches and my teammates, and I kind of know what to expect a little more," Countess said. "It's definitely been a different feel, but we're all just focusing on getting better. That's what's really making it special."
Now, he's seeing incoming freshmen going through similar struggles.
"Fall camp is a grind," Countess said. "They don't even know what to expect. They're all pushing through it, though, and that's one thing you really need as a freshman class, is togetherness."
Countess returns to a defensive unit that finished fourth in the Big Ten in total defense, but Michigan's secondary is also one of its deepest, returning four starters in safeties Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon and cornerbacks Countess and J.T. Floyd.
"We're looking pretty good," Countess said of the secondary. "We've made some strides this camp, and we're looking at getting better every day."
2013 NIGHT GAME: Speaking Wednesday at the Detroit Economic Club, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon confirmed the Wolverines will host a night game at Michigan Stadium in 2013.
If it's a November game that's scheduled to be broadcast, don't expect Michigan Stadium to host it after the sun sets. Scott Chipman, the Big Ten's assistant commissioner for communications, said while the Big Ten does not have a rule that specifically prohibits November night games, as part of the conference's contracts with its television partners, Big Ten teams do not schedule night home games.
"Based on current TV contracts, there are no night games in November," Chipman said.
Michigan opens the 2013 season Aug. 31 against Central Michigan, then hosts Notre Dame on Sept. 7, Akron on. Sept. 14, Minnesota on Oct. 5, Indiana on Oct. 19, Nebraska on Nov. 9, and Ohio State on Nov. 30.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.