Ondre Pipkins Goes Down with Jake Ryan on the Horizon; Lessons Learned from Blake Countess

Posted on Posted in Michigan Football

In August of 2012, freshman defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins was battling for a starting position on Michigan’s defensive line. A highly touted, five-star recruit out of Kansas City, Missouri, Pipkins was riding his young career at Michigan on incredibly high potential and an opportunity to assist a defense trying to prove its legitimacy.

It’s a freshman’s dream.

But during a morning practice on August 17, Ondre Pipkins suffered a neck injury and was taken by ambulance to the U-M Health System at 8:53 a.m. for precautionary measures. And though the incident never became a serious threat to Pipkins, being taken off to a hospital for a neck injury does not do a glorious job of setting the tone for a supposed-to-be tremendous season on the Michigan front.

Pipkins returned to practice three days later and went on to see action in all of Michigan’s 13 games.

But when enormous No. 56 went to the ground in the second half of last Saturday’s win over Minnesota, it certainly didn’t look like an injury that would only be sidelining Pipkins for a couple weeks.

It was easy to see where the pain was: his left knee. The question was how extensive it was.

“We’ll know more (Sunday). That’s all I know now,” coach added in his post game press conference. And if you know coach, you’re aware that he literally brushes these things off as being “boo-boo’s”–sometimes jokingly, sometimes not. But there was no sort of spark in Hoke’s tone after this one.

We learned on Monday that Ondre Pipkins had suffered the incredibly infamous ACL tear in his left knee, which will leave a vital part of the Michigan defense out for the rest of the season.

Unlike the neck injury sustained over a year ago, this will not allow Pipkins to simply pick up where he left off–at least not without a stupendous amount of work. No, this will take time. And perseverance. And guts.

Coming on the heels of the tragic news surrounding Ondre Pipkins was Brady Hoke saying that Jake Ryan, who also suffered an ACL tear this spring, “could potentially” play in this week’s game at Penn State.

Coaches had been optimistic that Ryan would return by mid-October, which means his 50:50 for this week is almost right on schedule.

The enormity of Jake Ryan’s role in this Michigan defense cannot be measured. He’s a hard-hitting, hard-working, dedicated leader and catalyst for Greg Mattison’s crew, and this is truly exciting news, seeing as the defense has already shown signs of progressing without their star.

Doctors have cleared Ryan to play, but the final decision rests with coach Hoke.

“I think he’s getting closer,” Hoke said of the second-team All-Big Ten selection. “We’ll have a good practice with him (Tuesday). He’s wanting to play. He seems to feel OK, but we still need to make sure he can do the things that he’s capable of doing.”

Coach Hoke also mentioned that, should Ryan be seeing the field come this Saturday, the coaching staff would be sure to limit his contributions.

And you know you’re doing something right when Taylor Lewan speaks highly of you.

“That says so much about him as a leader and as a person,” Lewan said. “But as far as him playing this weekend, that’s for the coaches to say.

“The way he’s been playing, Jake’s Jake.”

The not-yet-famous story of Blake Countess could be picking up publicity any week now. And that’s said with confidence because of the incredible turnaround we’ve played witness to this season with the redshirt sophomore cornerback battling back through an ACL tear and a knee operation to become one of the nation’s best defenders in the secondary.

In 2011, during Countess’ freshman campaign, the youthful, gifted athlete out of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Maryland left fans hurt and hopeful, as they saw the flaws in his coverage but also recognized the pure and raw potential he had to offer to this defense.

But just as soon as the 2012 season began, it took a dive off a cliff for Blake Countess when he suffered an ACL tear on September 1st in the season opener against Alabama.

Countess would be lost for the season.

After surgery began the grueling rehabilitation process, which lasted through the spring of this year for Countess.

And in the final stages of his rehabilitation, Blake Countess came out and made a mighty, bold statement for himself.

When asked if he believes he is the best athlete Michigan football has to offer, Countess smoothly replied, “I think. Definitely.” 

And what better way to prove that than by… doing a backflip? 

Yes, by doing a backflip.

Quarterback Devin Gardner often joked around with Countess about his athleticism, saying he can’t claim him to be the best athlete on the team because of his background in gymnastics. And he dared the new-look, new-feel Countess to do a backflip to show just how far along he had come since the operation.

 “I was like ‘man, I’m not doing that stuff.’ But then it started with a back handspring, and then the next thing you know it was a back flip — just because Devin wanted to see it.”

So Blake Countess did a backflip. And he apparently never ceased his flipping, because that’s all this cornerback has been doing to offenses this season–flipping possession.

To this point in the season, Countess stands atop the leaderboard, along with eight others, for interceptions with four of them in five games. Two of those interceptions came against Notre Dame on September 7.

Not bad for a kid who spent about nine months building up his knee to play again.

Tyler Fenwick
Managing Editor at The Big House Report
I am an aspiring journalist studying at IUPUI. I am the third (and youngest) manager of The Big House Report, and it's my responsibility to make sure it runs more smoothly today than it did yesterday.