Cooper Stands Out In First Season

In last Saturday's Alabama football scrimmage, upcoming sophomore wide receiver Amari Cooper had six receptions for 108 yards and four touchdowns. That sounded vaguely familiar. Ah! Alabama vs. Notre Dame: Amari Cooper six catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

When we last saw Amari Cooper, he was catching a 19-yard pass from A.J. McCarron for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the BCS National Championship Game in Miami Gardens. That score would result in Alabama having 42 points en route to the 42-14 win over Notre Dame.

Those yards would also give Cooper 1,000 for the season, putting him in select company among all-time Crimson Tide football players. Julio Jones tops the list at 1,133 on 78 catches in 2010. D. J. Hall ranks second (62 receptions for 1,056 yards in 2006) and third (67 catches for 1,005 yards in 2007). Cooper joins David Palmer, who had 1,000 yards on 61 catches in 1993. Cooper made his yards on just 59 receptions.

Last season Cooper had 30 more receptions than the number two man among Alabama receivers. Kevin Norwood with 29. Norwood was also second in receiving yards at 461.

Oh, and Cooper had 11 touchdown receptions in his first Bama season, a new Alabama record.

He was a Freshman All-America.

Cooper said that getting 1,000 receiving yards in his first year was "a big deal. I wanted to get 1,000 yards." He said he was aware of his progress through the year and thought he might make it.

Being in that four-man, 1,000-yard club, he said, "is a pretty good feeling."

The Miami native also realizes it's important to keep a level head. "You don't want to get a big head after just one season," he said. "I have two more years here."

After a prompt from a media relations representative, Cooper added, "At least."

Once upon a time Alabama followers would have angst over the thought of a great player leaving the Crimson Tide after his junior season, but that has become commonplace under Coach Nick Saban. Top Bama players head for the NFL after their junior seasons.

Cooper said that he is recognized more on campus, and says that level of celebrity status "is cool," but said his life has not changed after a year of Alabama football stardom.

That is the reason for hard work in spring practice. "We're working hard, just trying to go out there and compete every day and be the best team that we can be," he said.

This is the final week of spring practice. On Monday Alabama players were in Washington to be congratulated by President Obama for winning the 2012 national championship. There will be regular practices Tuesday and Thursday and the A-Day Game will be played at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. There is no admission charge.The game will be televised by ESPN2.

Cooper came to Alabama in time for the off-season program and spring practice prior to his freshman season last year. He said this being his second spring practice has "made everything easier. When I first came in, I didn't know a lot of plays. Anytime you don't know something you can't go full speed when you're playing a sport. This year, I know pretty much the whole offense and I can play fast. That's the biggest difference."

He said he has worked harder since his freshman year, including adding about seven pounds to his 6-1 frame. He is now at 202 pounds. He's also a tad faster, around the 4.3 40 mark, after working on his technique.

Cooper things the receiving corps will have a good year with the top men returning from last year and having McCarron back at quarterback. "We have a lot of play-makers," he said. "It's more competitive out there."

He said the other quarterbacks are also doing well.

A new receiver has caught his eye. Raheem Falkins is a 6-4, 203-pound freshman from New Orleans who entered The University this spring, the way Cooper did a year ago.

"His ceiling is very high," Cooper said of Falkins. "He's a big guy. He comes out of his breaks fast and he has great hands. I mean, he just has to keep working every day to fulfill his potential."

Cooper said that Falkins will have the same advantage Cooper had last August.

"When fall camp comes and the new receivers come in, they're not going to know anything and he's going to know everything."

That worked well for Amari Cooper.

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