Semper Fi VIDEO: Austin Hooper
SANTA ANA, Calif. -- It's come down to two college choices for Concord (Calif.) De La Salle jumbo athlete Austin Hooper, and -- wouldn't you know? -- it's the two schools he's known best all his life: California and Stanford.
"I talked a lot with Notre Dame over the summer, but then we kind of just lost contact," said Hooper. "It's Cal and Stanford. Maybe Oregon and Washington, but Cal and Stanford are the top two."
Hooper has quite a tough decision to make. It will almost certainly be one of the two Bay Area rivals, and at least on one side of the Bay, he'll have two other De La Salle Spartans to keep him company in linebacker Michael Barton -- just finishing up his first semester in Berkeley -- and 2013 commit Victor Egu, a Semper Fidelis All-American right along with Hooper.
"I grew up around Cal, and I've loved Cal from an academic standpoint, and the location – I love Berkeley," Hooper said. "It's a really cool place, but, the big question mark is football -- what I'm there for. That's the thing: I have to feel comfortable with the new coach, what they run and all that good stuff, because if it was just to be a student, I love Cal. Berkeley's a fun place, close to home."
Hooper has plenty to question after the Bears struggled to a 3-9 season, prompting the ouster of head coach Jeff Tedford. But, with new head coach Sonny Dykes and new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin come new opportunities for Hooper -- opportunities he may not have had before when it comes to Cal.
"I've talked to coach Dykes two or three times," Hooper said. "Coach Dykes wants me to play tight end for him, and he was talking about his offense. We'll talk more when it comes in a few weeks, the in-home visit, when this dead period ends."
Previously, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Hooper was offered as an outside linebacker/defensive end, but even the previous regime always had the possibility of Hooper playing tight end in the back of its collective mind. With one tight end/inside receiver already committed in Cal State Game participant Ray Hudson, having an athlete like Hooper as a bookend apparently appeals to Dykes and the new Bears staff, which has changed Hooper's standing offer from linebacker/defensive end to the more generic "athlete" tag.
"More of my offers are for tight end -- the schools that have seen me play tight end," said Hooper, who was a breakout star at defensive end in De La Salle's state title game win just two weeks ago, and blasted UCLA offensive tackle commit Kenny Lacy in one-on-ones on Monday. "It's a lot of fun being out here with a lot of good guys. They're really cool. None of them are arrogant, which is cool, and we're all just having fun out here, playing."
Hooper said that he prefers playing tight end, so the change in strategy by the new Cal staff could very well pay off.
"Defense is fun and all, but I think, from what I can do from a blocking perspective, route-running, catching, I feel like I can be a better tight end in the long term," Hooper said. "Coach Dykes, he had Gronkowski, so he knows what he's doing. If he has tight ends, he'll use them."
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