EVALUATION: I puposely waited until the last week of the regular season to go see Gahanna Lincoln four-star defensive end Jonathon Cooper for a few different reasons. First off, I wanted to see improvement over what everyone saw last summer on the camp circuit. Secondly, his opponent PIckerington Central has several 2018 prospects that are also going to hit the Ohio State radar, and it was a good chance to see everyone on the same field.
The only problem was Cooper getting hurt the week prior, suffering a knee injury that everyone thought would keep him out Thursday night while he rested for the playoffs. "Everyone" was wrong, because Cooper tested his knee in warmups, and even though it was clear he was not close to 100% he went ahead and tried to play anyway with a bulky brace on his leg.
In truth, Cooper might have been 50%, maybe less, but he gutted it out for a half on sheer guts and heart. When his team was on offense, Cooper had trouble walking, but when the defense took the field somehow he headed back out there with his teammates.
I asked someone close to him why he would risk further injury by playing, and received an interesting reply: "Because his team is playing for the conference title and they haven't won one in 15 years. He wants to win this thing very badly."
WHAT? A conference championship? Not a state championship. Not a national championship. No, a conference championship. In a game where his team was a decided underdog and lost as expected.
FINAL ANSWER: Look, I know the kid can play and I've believed it since the first time I saw him a few years ago in a camp in Cincinnati, after his sophomore season of high school. The easiest thing to note in this business is talent, and your grandmother can point out the elite prospects from the average ones. The hardest part is the heart, and there are times you wish you could cut open the chest and look inside. Not with this kid. It's not lip service. Watch what they do, not what they say. This kid has EVERYTHING he needs to be a star at Ohio State, not just a contributor. Any kid willing to risk his future for a high school conference title is going to lay it all on the line every single time he laces them up for Ohio State.
I'm not going to put up film of Cooper from Thursday night. There's no need. I would rather have people watch him from last summer: