Key to '12 -- No. 9 Blake Countess

Blake Countess became a starter at cornerback in 2011 as a true freshman. AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Over the next two weeks, WolverineNation will break down the 10 players who need to play to the peak of their abilities for Michigan to have its best possible season, going from 10 all the way to No. 1.

Sophomore cornerback Blake Countess exploded on to the Michigan football scene last season when he took the starting job as a true freshman from fifth-year senior Troy Woolfolk. Countess registered 44 tackles, good enough for eighth on the team, and more is expected from him this season.

Countess will need to play up to his potential because one of the Wolverines' goals is to allow less than two big plays a game. At times last season, the secondary struggled with this, missing tackles or assignments. This season, the starting group will be experienced, but the two-deep won't be as strong so Countess needs to be on the field for as much of the game as he can because the secondary is relying on his coverage skill. Last season, Countess and cornerback J.T. Floyd made up a potent cornerback group, accounting for nearly half of the team's pass breakups. As the 2011 season went on and Countess got more and more game experience, he felt himself getting thrown at less and less, which will probably be the case this year as well.

In a perfect world, the defensive line would be able to sack the opposing quarterback every play or stop the run before the running back gets to the second level. But, since it isn't a perfect world and Michigan's defensive line will be inexperienced, players such as Countess will need to be on their toes, playing their best if Michigan wants to keep opponents out of the end zone.