2008 Intro: Jon Cooper

WILMINGTON, N.C. --- In his first season as a starter, Jon Cooper anchored Wilmington (N.C.) Hoggard's offensive line at left guard allowing the Vikings to enjoy a 14-1 season.

"We played some tough teams and I improved a whole bunch last year," said Cooper. "My blocking got way better and I got faster and stronger." To further improve that speed and strength, Cooper has continued to work this offseason in the weight room. At 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds, Cooper has clocked a 5.1-second 40-yard dash time, and has increased his bench press max to 380 pounds and squat max to over 500 pounds.

This coming season in addition to his offensive line duties, Cooper will be in the rotation at defensive tackle for Hoggard. Traditionally, the Vikings don't double-platoon their players, but a thin depth chart and Cooper's strength will allow the move.

Scott Braswell, Hoggard's head football coach, believes Cooper, who is receiving a lot of college interest but no scholarship offers to date, will probably stay at guard on the collegiate level. However, he could see Cooper playing defensive tackle.

"He's just such a big, athletic kid," said Braswell. "He looks like a monster out there. He's a physical specimen that can move well.

"He's still learning football – occasionally he plays too high on his pads, but somebody's going to look at the physical product there and say ‘I've got to have him.' My guess is he'll get some offers coming out of summer camp."

Off the field, Cooper also excels.

"He has good grades; FCL here on campus," said Braswell. "He's just a great high character kid; great personality – very engaging personality."

Cooper is still mapping out his summer camping schedule but is looking at Clemson, Duke, Florida, N.C. State, and South Carolina as possible destinations.

Last year, Cooper accompanied teammate Casey Barth – brother of UNC kicker Connor – to North Carolina's game against South Florida.

"It was nice," said Cooper. "They treated me real nice. I wasn't even a recruit yet, but they were still treating me good. They let us see the locker room. It was a nice place."

Cooper will make his first visit back to UNC since the USF game on March 24th for the Tar Heels' Junior Day.

This spring, Cooper has already attended junior days at Duke, East Carolina, and N.C. State. In addition to his Chapel Hill trip this weekend, Cooper will travel to Columbia for South Carolina's Junior Day.

Looking to make a verbal commitment by the end of the summer, Cooper has his eye on three schools in particular.

"Duke, when I went up there, it was a nice place, good place to be – I wouldn't mind an offer from them," said Cooper. "I haven't been on a visit yet, but [I like] Clemson and Florida. [Clemson and Florida] just play good football, have a beautiful stadium, and Florida just won the national championship."

While location won't be a factor, Cooper said he is looking for a good coaching staff that he can learn from. Playing for a program with a winning tradition isn't a requirement, but is a huge bonus.

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