Cooper making big transition to college game

Freshman defensive end missed all but one game in final two years of high school. Now, he is at Michigan State and looking to make an impact.

The jump to playing football at Michigan State always is a big one for a freshman to make.

For defensive end Demetrius Cooper, the jump might be a little bigger than it is for others, but he said it is going well.

"It's going good," Cooper said. "I didn't really know what to expect coming out of high school and missing two years. I just gotta come back and grind –just grind harder than I had before."

After missing his junior season with a knee injury, Cooper played in just one game in his senior season due to transfer issues and the Chicago teachers' strike.

In essence, Cooper has jumped from his sophomore season in high school into the college game.

"That's a huge jump," the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Cooper said. "Me in high school, I was still a sophomore, I was still young. I was right around 15 or 16. I'm 18 right now. Then coming into college, playing with the big boys, it's a big transition. I gotta deal with it."

He also said the way the practice is run at MSU is a big change from high school.

"Practice is all on a timed schedule," he said. "In high school, it's just like walking around and do something here and do something there. In college, it's a fast tempo. That is something I was adjusting, too, and working my way up on the depth chart. We got our second scrimmage (Saturday), so we will see how I do there."

Cooper said he doesn't know if he will be redshirted yet.

"The coaches basically are telling me to keep on working," he said. "They aren't telling me that I'm going to redshirt, they're just telling me to keep on working and I've got a chance."

He also said no matter the outcome of a redshirt, he had a plan in place.

"It really doesn't matter right now," Cooper said. "I know if I don't redshirt, I just have to work harder than I am right now. If I do redshirt, I know I'll have to get bigger and stronger for next year."

Cooper, a Chicago native, said he is excited to be able to represent his hometown and state – as offensive lineman Jack Allen is the only other Illinois native on the roster.

"I know where I'm from, we get overlooked as far as football because we are more like a basketball state," Cooper said. "In football, we have a lot of talent in Illinois. I'm here right now showing what I can do. We gotta try and put our city on our back."

It won't be long before Cooper and Allen are joined by many more players from Illinois, the homestate of four commits in the 2014.

"It's like a wagon, everyone is coming along and I was the first person, or the second person now," Cooper said. "Jack Allen came two years ago and no one came last year, then I came. … Everybody is jumping in to come to Michigan State. That's good because now I can play with teammates and players from the same city and state as me. Right now, it's just two of us. Next year, it will be about four or five. It feels real good."

Previous coach comments on Cooper (August 7):

Mark Dantonio: "Demetrius is very athletic. He's not the heaviest guy right now, but he reminds me a lot of Julian Peterson when Julian was young. You know, Julian came here with two years of (junior college) ball in him. He's electric. He can move; he flashes. It's too early to tell, but I think he flashes as a player. I'm very excited about our freshmen."

Ron Burton: "Just his natural ability of getting off the ball. He uses his hands naturally and his speed. What he needs to continue doing is getting stronger and understanding the defense, which all our young kids do. It is still a work in progress, that's for sure."

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