Darian Cooper, the 6-foot-1, 290-pound three-star defensive tackle from DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., has around a dozen scholarship offers from schools coast-to-coast.
"I'm not making distance a factor," Cooper said. "My family is open to traveling, so I'll just go where it's the best fit."
That being said, Cooper admits that Maryland's 30 minute proximity is a plus. "They have very strong ties to DeMatha and it's a community atmosphere over there," he said. "Going there is like going to my school. I know everyone real well. I know a bunch of the guys that go there and feel at home there."
He says he also has a good relationship with coach Ralph Friedgen and offensive coordinator James Franklin. "I've talked with them a lot," he said. "I like how they're trying to get to know me as a person and not just a jersey. They take time to talk to my family and get to know my mom too."
The ‘Terps were Cooper's first offer in February. He's also already visited them for their junior day.
"I loved UCLA," he said. "The weather was beautiful and I like the west coast lifestyle. It's just very nice and laid back. I loved the campus. It would be exciting to go there because it would be a complete change for me. It would be something different."
Cooper says that UCLA is very likely to be one of his five official visits.
"I think coach Rick Neuheisel is great and I like the attitude they have on the field," he said. "They're all about business there."
While in Los Angeles, Cooper also visited the Bruins' cross-town rival, USC as well. "They said they were real impressed with my highlight tape and asked me to attend their camp this summer," he said. "I'll have to see if I can make that."
He says he's being recruited by Trojans offensive line coach James Cregg and passing game coordinator John Morton.
This Saturday, May 22, Cooper plans on visiting Michigan for the first time. "It's a historic program," he said. "They produce some heavy talent. My friends' mom was always a huge Michigan fan growing up, so I remember hearing a lot about them."
Cooper, ranked as the No. 25 defensive tackle in the country by Scout.com, also has written scholarship offers from Penn State, Illinois, Michigan State, Marshall, North Carolina State and Clemson. He says he has verbal rides from Iowa, Wisconsin and Virginia . "Those should be coming in the mail," he said.
Growing up, he denies following a specific program. "I got into football in middle school and never really watched college football," he said. "I had a cousin who ran track at Miami and she always wanted me to go there."
Cooper says he'll make a decision after his senior season. "I want to take my official visits," he said. "I'll just do it when the time is right. I really want to go out there and see these schools."
He finished his junior season with 10 sacks.
"I'm an explosive player," he said. "I have a nose for the ball. I'm pretty strong and have good closing speed. I can get to the outside well and give it my all on every play. I play with emotion and energy."
He says he can bench 370-pounds and has a 26-inch vertical jump.
"I want to be more of a complete player," he said. "I want to run faster and jump higher. I'm also working on staying lower and being more agile."
Cooper plans to major in business and reports a 2.6 core GPA. He took the SAT on May 1 and is waiting for the results.