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Published: Tuesday, 9/4/2012

UM loses Countess for season

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR -- The Michigan football team is already contending with injuries as it enters the second week of the season.

Two days after a season-opening loss to Alabama, the Wolverines announced on Monday that sophomore cornerback Blake Countess will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a torn ACL in the first quarter of the 41-14 loss. Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Countess will have surgery within the next two weeks.

"You hate to see anyone get hurt," Hoke said during his Monday press conference. "He's a valuable team member."

In 12 games last season, including six as a starter, Countess started six games and had 44 tackles, including 30 solo tackles.

Courtney Avery, a junior, will replace Countess in the lineup for Saturday's home opener against Air Force, and Avery will start ahead of sophomore Raymon Taylor and freshman Terry Richardson.

Against Alabama, Avery had one tackle. In 13 games last season, Avery had 26 tackles (nine assisted), two interceptions, and a fumble return for an 83-yard touchdown.

"Courtney's a seasoned veteran," Hoke said. "Courtney has a lot of experience, he's played a lot of football here. We trust Courtney, and I think that's as big of an issue as anything. I think Courtney, right now, yeah, he'll be the starter."

Countess is the second Wolverine lost for the season to an ACL injury. Last month, Whitmer graduate Chris Wormley tore the ACL in his left knee during preseason practices; the freshman defensive end underwent surgery last week.

Hoke also said tight end Brandon Moore will miss Saturday's game because of an MCL issue.

"Not torn or anything," Hoke said. "But I think it's stretched. We'll see how his goes."

Hoke also said that offensive lineman Taylor Lewan's fourth-quarter injury was minor, and that quarterback Denard Robinson is sore after shoulder and hip injuries on Saturday, but will practice this week.

What will define the Wolverines this week is their collective resiliency after the most lopsided season-opening loss in the program's history.

"A lot of the things we go through in the offseason, it's about overcoming adversity," said Elliott Mealer, a Wauseon graduate who is expected to make his second start at center on Saturday. "This goes on with it. We've been prepared to go through adversity. Obviously, a loss like this hurts, but we've got to be able to move on, learn from our mistakes and prepare for Air Force."

Devin Gardner, who is listed Michigan's No. 2 wide receiver on the depth chart for Saturday's game against Air Force, saw that resiliency demonstrated in the hours after the Wolverines returned from Texas.

"The day after the game, I saw a lot of guys watching film, a lot of upperclassmen, as they should be," wide receiver Devin Gardner said. "I was a freshman once, and as a freshman, you don't understand you've got to get film in and put [the last game] behind you. It was great to see all the upperclassmen watching the film on their own and putting the game behind us. Taking the mistakes and all the good things we did, and all the bad things we did, and getting ready for Air Force."

Improvement for both Air Force and for the remainder of the season, Hoke said, starts from within the program.

"This week we'll learn a little bit more about our leadership," Hoke said. "This week we'll learn a little bit more on how motivated they are. And I think when you only have 11 guaranteed opportunities left, and you're Michigan, I think you'll be very motivated."

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.



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