Shrine Bowl Spotlight: Jonathan Cooper

ROEBUCK, S.C. --- Jonathan Cooper headed into the 2007 season strictly as an offensive guard. Injuries on Wilmington (N.C.) Hoggard's defensive line forced the 6-foot-3, 305-pounder to become a two-way starter.

Due to the talent and usual depth, it's uncommon for a Shrine Bowler to play on both sides of the ball. Injuries, though, will turn Cooper into the exception.

"I guess I'll be playing both of them," Cooper said. "There's no depth at either side [of the ball]… [They said] they needed me on the O-line and the defensive coach said I will play on the D-line."

Cooper, who was originally selected to the Shrine Bowl as an offensive lineman, will play left guard on offense and nose tackle on defense.

"I could potentially start on offense," Cooper said. "But you know because I began [practices] on defense, I was late with learning [offensive] plays. But if I get caught up with that, I'm pretty sure I could [start].

"On defense, I think, they have the starters kind of set already. But, he told me they're going to have a rotation, not just the same people playing the whole game. So I should see a lot of playing time."

At Hoggard, Cooper played defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, but will lineup at nose tackle in a "50" defense on Saturday.

"This suits me a little better, because I don't have to be as fast by containing the end; I'm more using power," Cooper said. "And in this scheme, I'm not necessarily supposed to make tackles. I'm just supposed to take on double-teams and anchor it down, so that the linebackers can make plays."

Cooper arrived in Spartanburg late Saturday night following Hoggard's 28-0 victory in the NCHSAA 4A State Championship game capping off an unbeaten season. Therefore a win Saturday in the Shrine Bowl would be another accomplishment to add to Cooper's career.

"If I had to choose to lose one between [the Shrine Bowl] and the State Championship, of course it would be [the Shrine Bowl]," Cooper said. "But [winning the Shrine Bowl] would be a cherry on top of a great senior season and great career."

In early January, Cooper will travel to the University of North Carolina to take his first official visit. But, he's not exactly sure of the weekend.

"I don't know," Cooper said. "It's either the first week or the second week I'm not positive. I know I'm visiting [NC] State the weekend afterwards."

Cooper will also take official visits to South Carolina and Wake Forest. He doesn't think he'll take his final (fifth) allotted official visits and stated he doesn't have a leader between the four schools.

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