Posted: 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013
Hometown: Virginia Beach, Va
High School: Bayside HS
Scouting reports on Cooper were all over the place. He was rated as a 2 star WR by Scout, 3 stars by Rivals and 3 stars by ESPN. Scout ranked him 287th among WRs, ESPN ranked him 72nd and Rivals ranked him 57th. His offer list was also all over the place. High profile schools such as Tennessee, Boston College and Virginia along with FCS schools such as JMU, Hampton and Richmond. (OK, so maybe Tennessee, BC and Virginia aren't all that high profile, but they're at least BCS schools.)
Maybe it's no surprise, considering the above information, that Cooper was actually slotted at DB when he arrived in Charlottesville last year. Maybe it's also no surprise that he saw the field right away, seeing action in all 12 games, mostly on special teams. He also saw some action on defense, particularly in the UNC game when he had 4 tackles on just 19 plays. For the season, he had 7 tackles, 6 of them solo.
Cooper has good size, and good straight line speed. Those are his best attributes, which is probably why many scouts saw him at WR. Depth was the main reason the Hoos put him at FS, both depth at WR and lack thereof at FS. At the time, the plan was for Cooper to play mostly special teams last year in preparation for being on the 2-deep at FS this year.
For whatever reason, that hasn't worked out. Cooper was buried on the depth chart at FS coming out of the spring. And he hasn't even been taking part in fall camp. The latest word is that Cooper is likely to redshirt this year, which would help mitigate the loss of his redshirt last year. However, by the time next year rolls around, Cooper may be even further back on the depth chart. One wonders if the staff is considering moving him back to offense. There is still a ton of depth at WR, but Cooper has a very strong skillset there.
As a FS, Cooper is still a very strong prospect. He's tall, which obviously helps. As I said above, he's got very good straight line speed, which is important when playing a single-high defense. He's also a physical guy, who has no trouble coming up and making a big hit on a WR or RB. That's the main reason he was successful on special teams.
Some guys benefit from redshirt years. Some guys don't. Some guys benefit from a year spent mostly on special teams. Some guys don't. It remains to be seen where Cooper fits. He played last year, while some other DBs like Kelvin Rainey and Wil Wahee didn't. Those guys are now closer to the field than Cooper. Perhaps a redshirt year will help him as much as it helped the other guys. And maybe the field experience he has will give him a leg up on some of the other young DBs on the roster.
It will be a shame if Cooper's career never really materializes, because he has a lot of potential on both sides of the ball, and he already lost one season of eligibility without providing much in the way of production.