Cornerback Blake Countess has now graduated from Michigan, which means he can now take advantage of a graduate transfer to play one more season anywhere he chooses if given a spot on a roster. Auburn appears to be one team of interest.
After previously visiting former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez and Arizona, Countess will reportedly spend this weekend at Auburn. Al.com also reports Countess intends to visit Oklahoma and Oklahoma State later this month. Should Countess wind up at Auburn, he will likely step into a key role on what could be a revamped defense under new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. Muschamp has been helping to increase the intensity on defense, something Gus Malzahn spoke about earlier this spring. Countess would have a good chance to grab a starting job in the secondary after the Tigers have lost five players in the defensive backfield since January.
Countess announced earlier this month his intention to play the 2015 season somewhere else instead of Michigan. His announcement came a day after Jim Harbaugh welcomed another graduate transfer to Ann Arbor, defensive back Wayne Lyons from Stanford.
TCU will be opening spring practices this week looking to set the tone for taking the next step toward being recognized as college football royalty. Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson made note the teams selected to play in the College Football Playoff ahead of his TCU program as well as Baylor were each considered among college football royalty. Patterson had a realistic view of the college football landscape and knows TCU is not considered among those upper echelon programs, but it is working to prove it belongs.
In all likelihood, TCU will not miss a beat transitioning from 2014 to 2015. The Horned Frogs put together a dominant performance in the Peach Bowl in a blowout of Ole Miss and Patterson’s program returns 14 starters including quarterback and potential Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin at quarterback. The focus this spring should be on the defensive side of the football with TCU in need of filling some key roles at linebacker and in the secondary. Odds are pretty decent Patterson will find something that works.
TCU is not the only Big 12 school opening spring practice this week. Texas Tech will also get started, with much more to work on than the Horned Frogs. Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury has plenty of room for improvement with his squad of Red Raiders, on offense and defense.
Stanford enters a rather interesting spring as well. Senior cornerback Wayne Lyons is expected to transfer to Michigan, where he will now play for former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh after his mother was hired by Michigan. Stanford has been a tough contender in the Pac-12 race in recent seasons, but the 2014 season saw the Cardinal fall back a bit. Oregon still figures to be the top program in the Pac-12 North, while the balance of power may be starting to shift to the south with USC and UCLA doing well and Arizona State and Arizona likely to remain competitive. If Stanford can prove to have another strong defense and the offense can get on track early on, then the Cardinal should again be a factor in the Pac-12 in 2015. Like TCU, addressing needs on the defense will be critical for Stanford starting this spring, especially with some coaching turnover.
One potential team to follow in the Group of Five conversation also opens spring practice this week; Cincinnati. The BearCats open spring practices on Friday. Cincinnati will be among the favorites in the AAC in 2015, with a shot to play in a New Years Six bowl game if all goes well. A chance to host the first AAC championship game in newly renovated Nippert Stadium would be a nice goal, and it is certainly one that should be within reach for Cincinnati. Before Cincinnati gets a chance to open the spring schedule, fellow AAC school USF will get started. The Bulls open spring practice on Monday, with much to get started on for what could be a critical season for head coach Willie Taggart. Taggart has coached USF to a record of 6-18 in his first two seasons on the job, with a 5-11 mark in conference games.
Here is a list of schools scheduled to open spring practices this week.
American Athletic Conference
USF, February 23
Cincinnati, February 27
TCU, February 28
Texas Tech, February 28
Old Dominion, February 28
Stanford, February 23