Cooper making strides with first team

Just when Marcus Cooper thought he was finding a groove during spring practice, the redshirt freshman suffered a setback in what is described as a "freak accident", off the field. Now after week one of training camp, Cooper's goal is to get back to where he was at his apex in the spring and continue to improve from there.

And that's what he's done.

Since being back in the mix at wide receiver, Cooper has turned heads with his hands and ability to use his size to make plays. He has spent the majority of his time working with the first and second teams.

"Marcus had a really great spring," said senior quarterback Domenic Natale. "He was coming along really well at the start and then I think that injury stopped him. But now, he's working really hard for the summer. I don't even think it's in the back of his head right now."

The coaches see the same thing in Cooper, a guy that was making great progress before the injury.

"He'd be even further along if he didn't [have the accident]," said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. "Coop's going to be a good player. He's got a good feel about him."

For Cooper, it's just a good feeling to be back out there knowing he has a chance for significant playing time after redshirting last season.

"I think I'm fortunate that I'm able to get back out here, so I'm loving it," Cooper said. "We've been working hard all summer for this. To get out here and feel that adrenaline rush is special."

Cooper joins seniors Julian Hayes and Andrew DePaola, junior Mason Robinson, redshirt freshmen Keith Stroud and Tim Wright and freshman Mohamed Sanu as the competitors in the mix for the starting job.

"I see it as we (the receivers) are a group. As long as all of us can participate and can contribute it really doesn't matter," Cooper said. "It is a big motivation [knowing how wide open the battle is], but as long as the group gets the job done, I can't complain about it.

"It's exciting to see all of us young guys be able to bond together. We've got some of the old receivers there helping us out so that we're able to contribute. I'm pretty excited that we have the older guys here helping us out."

Cooper, 6-foot-2, 185-pounds, came into Rutgers as an unheralded recruit, choosing the Scarlet Knights over offers from Temple, Akron, Buffalo and Troy. However, he's raised his game to another level, and has begun taking advantage his size, and placed himself in an enviable situation.

"He's another big body guy and with that big size come big plays," Natale said of his receiver.

The competition at the position doesn't bother Cooper, but what does annoy the Bloomfield, Conn. native is the way people view the second wide receiver spot as a question mark.

"Just because we don't have a starter doesn't mean the position is weak," Cooper said. "If all of us contribute to what we're trying to do this year, we'll be fine."

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