Tristan Cooper posed some athletic plays for Arizona last week against Grambling State, but the newcomer admits the transition onto a college field has not been easy.
“It was exciting, but I was also a little nervous,” Cooper said. “The first half of the game caused me jitters and I was a little timid out there. By halftime, we all got a pep talk from the couches and I thought I got my break in the second half.
“I’ve worked really hard to get stronger and be the fastest guy on the field. Once I got more comfortable out there, I realized it was a lot like practice, but in real time.
"Coach Donte always tells me to go into every play at full speed and that helped a lot. I felt like I knew everything and I had my mind in the right place.”
Regarded as the best player on his high school team, Cooper understands there is a different mindset one must have at the college level.
“I didn’t want to carry anything over from high school,” he said. “When I first came here, it was a humbling experience. Camp starts so fast and you just have to be ready for that right away.
"The coaches told me if you think you’re good, then you're just an average player. As a new guy, that’s something I tell myself each day to get better.”
Cooper embraces learning from Arizona’s experienced secondary.
“I’m taking a lot of tis from Tellas and DaVonte’,” Cooper said. “I know they’re helping me out with things I need to work on like footwork and tackling.
"Those two guys have such a great football IQ and I’m always trying to take it all in. I’m just average right now and I have to prove myself.”
As Hawaii quickly approaches, Cooper knows the defense as a whole must improve.
“Tackling has been a problem for us,” Cooper said. “I know that and the coaches know it even more. Just yesterday, we had individual tackling drills with Coach Donte and they lasted most of practice.
“I don’t think tackling is an easy job, but it’s not a hard job either and we’ve got to be better at it. We’ve got to be able to tackle in the open field because that’s been our main problem. I think we’re getting there and you’ll see the improvement in this next game.”