Blake Countess will switch to No. 2 this season. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)
Ann Arbor — Michigan cornerback Blake Countess has made it well-known since he arrived here from Maryland that he coveted jersey No. 2.
While growing up, he idolized former Wolverine Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson and Florida State standout Deion Sanders. Both wore No. 2 during their college careers.
Countess will get his wish beginning this fall, his junior year, when he wears the number for the Wolverines, switching from No. 18. Michigan officially begins practice today.
“I’ve always wanted to wear it since I committed to the University of Michigan,” Countess said Sunday at Schembechler Hall. “That was a number I always wanted to wear whatever school I picked.
“Coming here, it was a little bit different, but it was definitely a conversation me and coach (Brady) Hoke have had in the past and did have in the offseason. It’s an honor to be able to wear that jersey. I’m not Charles Woodson by any means — I’m just trying to be the best Blake Countess I can be.”
Countess, whose six interceptions last season tied for first in the Big Ten, didn’t have to lobby for the number or list reasons why he should have it.
“There’s no set standards for the number,” he said. “Coach Hoke ultimately made the decision.”
Now several months after he underwent core surgery at the end of May, Countess said he feels completely healthy. Countess missed the 2012 season after a knee injury in the season opener and last year played with lower abdominal pain.
He was somewhat limited and played and practiced through the discomfort. It affected his speed and movement, he said.
“I played all last year just kind of banged up a little bit,” he said. “I didn’t feel like myself completely on game days, (and) throughout the week during practice. I had a decent season last year, but it was definitely something I was voicing to my coaches and trainers.”
Countess rested as he was told and has gone through rehab and treatment.
He was asked if he feels different than last year.
“I don’t know if I feel superhuman, but I definitely feel better, healthy,” he said with a laugh.
Competition will be stiff at cornerback and Countess and fellow veteran Raymon Taylor know they will have to work to keep their jobs at corner. Countess said it’s a friendly competition, though, and it has been more about helping each other improve.
Sophomore wide receiver Csont’e York from Harper Woods has been indefinitely suspended by the Michigan football team for failure to meet team standards, the school announced.
York, who played at Chandler Park Academy, will not report for fall camp. He appeared in one game as a freshman.
“We demand that every person in our program represent the University of Michigan and the Michigan football program the right way on and off the field. When people fall short of that, there are consequences,” Coach Brady Hoke said in a statement.
The old guy
Receiver Devin Funchess is a junior now, and the resident “older guy” in the position-group meetings.
And with his advanced age and experience comes the added job requirements of a veteran, and that means helping the younger players as much as possible.
“They all ask questions like a kid in a candy store,” Funchess said, laughing.
Funchess has never been a vocal leader, so he said he spent the offseason setting an example. He assisted senior quarterback Devin Gardner in setting up offseason drills.
“I worked harder this year,” Funchess said, as a function of needing to be a leader and showing -- rather than telling — freshmen what to do.
He has enjoyed freshman Freddy Canteen, an early enrollee freshman from Wilmington, Del. Funchess believes Canteen can make an impact this fall, which is exactly what the freshman told reporters during spring camp.
“We’re going to see if he can live up to that — I think he can,” Funchess said. “He’s a go-getter. He comes from Delaware. Delaware is not a big state where people get recruits, so I think he’s going to put (pressure) on himself and (for representing) the state.
“He’s got the weight of Delaware on his back. He’s always talking about Delaware is the real ‘D’, but we all know that’s not the truth.”
Funchess joked that he and the rest of the players have had to get used to Canteen’s Delaware accent.
“They talk different over there,” he said. “We have to get used to how they talk. They have different lingo. Accent-wise, (they’re) real different than Michiganders.”
Red but not that red
Michigan defensive lineman Brennen Beyer said he watched on television the Real Madrid-Manchester United soccer match at Michigan Stadium that set a U.S. soccer attendance record on Saturday.
While he said it looked like a tremendous atmosphere, he was struck by the amount of red in the stadium. Those red-clad fans supported Manchester United, but you couldn’t help but think Ohio State fans had taken over
“That I could have done without that,” Beyer said of the red. “If it’s not for Ohio, it’s not as bad.”
Helping the O-Line
During summer workouts, skill position players can get plenty of work in 7-on-7 drills.
But what about offensive linemen, particularly this young group at Michigan?
Junior fullback Joe Kerridge said the running backs would split up and work with the linemen on different blocking schemes this summer.
“We’ve done a lot more of it this year,” Kerridge said.
Offensive line will be a major question mark heading into the season, much as it was a year ago, but this all Michigan must replace two anchors at the tackles.