Fun for fullback

Fullback Kevin Cooper clearly played a big role in Tennessee's 2008 offense.

He blocked on run plays to the right.

He blocked on run plays to the left.

He blocked on drop-back pass plays.

He blocked on roll-out pass plays.

It was a big role, to be sure, but also a predictable role. That's why he's excited about the Vols' switch from the West Coast offense of 2008 to the pro-style attack of 2009. The bruising 6-0 247-pound rising junior from Chattanooga will actually get to do something besides block.

"I believe I'm a lot more involved in the passing game in this offense as a receiver," Kevin Cooper said this week. "And I'm being used more as a running back. That's the most different thing I've found about this offense. I'm lining up in the backfield, lining up more outside, lining up offset ... I'm just everywhere."

Cooper averaged precisely one touch per game last fall, catching 7 passes for 42 yards and carrying 5 times for 10 yards. Based on what he's seeing and hearing this spring, he and the football won't be such strangers in the new offensive scheme.

"The fullback is actually involved as a ball-carrier," he said. "You're not just a dummy ride anymore. That's why it's so fun to me."

Cooper isn't the only Vol who is sold on the new offensive scheme. His teammates seem equally enthusiastic about the player-friendly system.

"It's very exciting," he said. "The offense is very tedious; it's very hard work learning it. But it's fun. When they say it's a fun offense, it really IS fun. There are so many different things you can do in it. You can line up different ways and run the same plays."

Cooper is capable of being much more than a plodding blocking back. He rushed for 1,891 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior at Chattanooga Baylor. Naturally, he's hoping for more opportunities to showcase his ball-carrying skills than the five carries he got in 2008.

"Everybody has an opportunity now, and when an opportunity comes, you got to grab hold of it and take advantage of it," he said. "I feel like this is my opportunity this year. Going into my junior year this is a good time to break out and make myself noticed."

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