USC Offers Emerging Tar Heel State Lineman

In the 2007 recruiting class, USC had success evaluating and offering emerging Tar Heel State prospects like Jason Barnes and Melvin Ingram before they became household names on the recruiting trail. This year they are hoping to do the same, as they recently extended an offer to an emerging offensive line prospect that has the physical tools to develop into an elite lineman on the college level.

John T. Hoggard (Wilmington, NC) offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper has flown beneath the proverbial recruiting radar for much of his high school career, but after a few impressive camp showings this summer, the emerging line prospect has picked up offers from South Carolina and Wake Forest in the past couple of weeks to go along with previous tenders from East Carolina, Duke and Buffalo. The 6'3", 304 pound Cooper, who has nearly a seven-foot wingspan, already holds a positive impression of what the Gamecocks have to offer.

"I think it would be a great place to go. It would be amazing to play in front of 85,000 people and have Steve Spurrier coach you. It seems like a great place to go," said Cooper. "I went there for a camp earlier this summer. I didn't see the whole school, but I saw most of the football facilities. Everything was really nice. I also like my recruiter, Coach (Brad) Lawing. He's a nice guy. He's upbeat, and he talks to me just like I was his son. I like him a lot."

According to Cooper, who could play either guard or center on the college level, the Gamecocks are recruiting him hard because landing interior offensive linemen is a priority for them in the 2008 class.

"They've told me that they need some interior linemen because they haven't recruited as many lately, and they think this is the year for it. They said they could really use some interior linemen like me. I‘d like to play guard, but if I play center in college I wouldn‘t mind too much. Coach (John) Hunt says that he can get me into the league, so that sounds good to me."

On top of his mammoth wingspan, Cooper also had an interesting story to share about how the size of his hands played into the Gamecocks' decision to extend an offer his way.

"I was just leaving practice, and my coach pulled up beside me and said he was on the phone with South Carolina. He told me to hurry up and get back to his office. I was like, ‘What's going on?' As soon as we got in the office, he started tracing my hands. He said that the South Carolina coaches wanted to see how big my hands were before making the decision to offer me or not. He faxed it to them, and they got it. Then they said they were going to offer me. I guess I have pretty big hands."

After attending one of USC's camps earlier this summer and getting a taste of what South Carolina is like, Cooper is hoping to make a return trip to Columbia in the near future along with his parents so that his mom can see the campus for herself.

"When I went there before, it was just my dad and me. The (USC coaches) called my coach and said when I get a free weekend to come down there again and make sure I bring my mom. She's going to play a big role in my decision, so I'm trying to go there soon with both my parents."

When it comes to naming favorites, Cooper is maintaining an open stance right now, but he insisted that if a school were to offer his teammate Casey Barth, they would jump to the top of his list. Barth is one of the most highly regarded kickers in the southeast this year.

With the increased attention of late, Cooper plans to hold off on making a decision until the fall, but he knows what factors he will be looking for when it comes time to make his college choice.

"I thought I was going to do it before the end of the summer, but I don't think I will now. I think I'll wait until maybe mid-season, but I don't know yet. The factors I'll look for are I want to play for a good coach and get a good education. I also don't want to lose, so the prestige factors in a little bit."

Cooper, who describes himself as "Big, fast, strong and agile like a gazelle," is also beginning to receive interest from Clemson, North Carolina, N.C. State and Maryland.

Stay tuned to for all the latest on this emerging Tar Heel State prospect.

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