Amari Cooper Can Be Even Better

By Amari Cooper standards – statistically at least – Amari Coper had only a so-so season in 2013, even though he was the Crimson Tide's leading receiver. His "sophomore slump" was still very good football. Alabama Coach Nick Saban thinks bigger things are ahead for Cooper.



Amari Cooper, a 6-1, 210-pound wide receiver, was Alabama's leading receiver last year with 45 catches for 736 yards (16.4 yards per catch) with four touchdowns and a Bama record 99-yard TD reception. As a freshman on the Tide's 2012 national championship team, the Miami native had 59 receptions for 1,000 yards.

How good was that freshman season? The 11 touchdowns broke a 62-year old Alabama record held by Al Lary. His receptions and yards ranked sixth and fourth in Bama history and broke Julio Jones's freshman records.

No wonder Cooper was a consensus Freshman All-America.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, "Amari's really played outstanding football here for us for two years. About halfway through his freshman year, he really became an outstanding player. He got very confident in what he was doing. Last year I thought he had a very good year, especially the second half of the year."

Moreover, Saban thinks Cooper can be better.

Following the Tide's first spring practice in full gear Wednesday, Saban said, "So far this spring, he's been phenomenal; in the offseason program as well as in the first three practices that we've had.

"Obviously he's a guy that we want to get the ball to as many times as we can. Lane will do a really good job of getting the ball in the playmakers' hands. I think between the backs that we have and the receivers that we have and Coop's history of being a very consistent performer, I would think that he'll have an outstanding year this year."

Saban's reference to Lane is Lane Kiffin, Bama's new offensive coordinator.

Cooper impressed a new group of admirers earlier this spring during Alabama's Pro Day. Although Cooper won't be eligible to go out for the NFL draft until after his upcoming junior season, it is common practice for some underclassmen to get some measurements when NFL scouts are on campus to test those Bama players who are entering the draft.

Cooper ran the 40 for the scouts. Although the stop watches are hand held, the result was impressive.

4.31.

"Yes, on one clock, yeah," Cooper said. "On one clock it was 4.31; 4.31, 4.35, and 4.38."

Cooper said, "I'm trying to get faster. It's all about technique in the 40." He added, "I've seen a couple of guys run times close to that or faster."

Cooper had good things to say about the addition of Kiffin as offensive coordinator. "I think he came in and made the offense more simple and player friendly," Cooper said. "The way plays are called, it's easy to recognize what you have to do as a player."

He's been impressed by something else Kiffin brought to Bama. Kiffin has shown Tiders clips of the offense at USC, where Kiffin was head coach before joining the Alabama staff in January. "We look at it for concepts we need to learn for our offense here and we know what those guys did for him at USC at the wide receiver position," Cooper said.

Including seeing what All-America wide receiver Marquis Lee did in the Trojans offense, which Cooper said is "cool."

He also thinks Kiffin "is a pretty cool guy; pretty laid-back guy. He pays attention to everything, every little thing. I noticed that about him when we were practicing for the bowl game."

Cooper wants to be even better. Asked if there were any wide receivers in camp who might take the role of the graduated Kevin Norwood, Cooper said, "You mean someone who catches everything? I think we're all striving to be the Norwood type that catches everything."

Cooper said the team is listening to Saban as spring practice begins. "We need to stay focused and finish," he said. "Those are the two main things Coach Saban has been emphasizing."

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