How Michigan Transfer Blake Countess Answered Auburn's Call for Help

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How Michigan Transfer Blake Countess Answered Auburn's Call for Help

Every morning since the start of fall camp, Justin Garrett has watched his new roommate down an interesting beverage.

"He wakes up every morning and drinks a glass of pickle juice," the Auburn linebacker said Tuesday, per Ryan Black of Auburn Undercover. "That's the first time I had ever seen that."

Much like the pickle juice routine, Garrett's roommate—cornerback Blake Countess—is a relatively new sight for the Tigers this fall.

And the briny, green liquid is a fitting choice for a player who was brought in to help Auburn get out of the pickle it was in at defensive back.

Countess arrived at Auburn this summer as a graduate transfer from Michigan, where he was a first-team All-Big Ten cornerback in 2013 after leading the conference with six interceptions.

After making 30 starts during his Wolverines career, Countess decided to head elsewhere for his final year of eligibility—just as the program was beginning its transition to new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

The former 4-star recruit from Maryland fielded interest from schools all over the country, including Arizona, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

But Countess says Auburn stuck out to him before he even arrived on the Plains for his visit thanks to a call from a player he now lines up with in the Tigers secondary.

"I pretty much told him he needs to come to Auburn," senior cornerback Josh Holsey said, per Tom Green of the Opelika-Auburn News. "I really just contacted him and was like, 'Where you trying to—where you thinking about going and what not?' He told me where he was going, and I was like, 'If you come down here, you’ll have a chance to come in and help us, and have an opportunity to win a national championship.'"

Holsey's simple recruiting pitch made more of an impact to Countess than any of the ones he heard from a coach.

"Hearing it from a player is much different than hearing it from a coach," Countess said, per Green. "[Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp] both explained it to me. It kinda puts it in perspective when you hear it from a player.

"He said: 'We have a chance to be really good in the secondary, but we have no depth right now. You coming in is going to allow us to do some different things on defense that we really can’t do right now.'"

After an offseason in which plenty of defensive backs had transferred away from Auburn, it was more than a recruiting effort.

It was a call for help.

Safety Mackenro Alexander and cornerback Kalvaraz Bessent left before spring camp even began at Auburn. A few days before Countess announced his decision to become a Tiger, the program announced the departures of cornerback Cameron Melton, safety Derrick Moncrief and cornerback Joe Turner.

Auburn had reinforcements arriving from its 2015 signing class, but replacing players who had multiple years of college experience with ones fresh out of high school spelled trouble for Muschamp and Robinson. The Tigers needed a veteran presence in the secondary.

"He’s a guy that’s going to come in, step right in and play, right away," safety Johnathan "Rudy" Ford said, per Evan McCullers of the Auburn Plainsman. "He’s got a great IQ of football. That adds to our unit. He’s another guy that can be one of the guys that we count on in the fourth quarter, because he’s been there before."

After settling in at Auburn and hitting the practice field for the first time, Countess showed his new coaches and teammates he could provide more than just experience in the secondary—he could give Auburn some much-needed versatility.

"He can play corner and nickel. He's smart enough to play safety," head coach Gus Malzahn told Chris Low of "It was a huge need for us after T.J. Davis got hurt in the spring."

When Auburn picked up Countess earlier this year, the biggest need was at cornerback, a position where injuries and transfers forced walk-on cornerback "Dirty" Mike Sherwood—now armed with a scholarship after Tuesday's practice, according to the team's official website—to start the annual A-Day Game.

But former Georgia transfer Tray Matthews, now eligible to play at Auburn, is still hampered in fall camp with a nagging hamstring injury, according to Brandon Marcello of If health continues to be a concern for Matthews, Auburn may need some extra help at safety through Countess.

It wouldn't be the first time the newcomer has helped Auburn in an unexpected way.

After watching Countess drink pickle juice several times, Garrett tried it out in order to avoid cramping at practice. The result was a satisfying, yet sour, success.

"It don't taste too good," Garrett said, per Black. "But I'd rather it taste bad and not cramp up rather than not [drinking] it all and experiencing the pain of cramping up."


Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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