Cooper making moves on d-line

PULLMAN — Xavier Cooper hasn't played in a game since late 2009, but he was talking like a seasoned veteran when caught up with him recently. Indeed, if you're looking for some swagger up front on the Wazzu defensive line, Cooper has what you're looking for…

"I'm just hungry for game time already. I just want to knock people out, get that ball out and create some turnovers. (Mike) Breske is teaching us ways to create turnovers and that's definitely going to help us win games…Be patient and watch out on Saturday," Xavier Cooper said.

A 2010 graduate of Tacoma's Wilson High, Cooper delayed enrollment until January of 2011. He was among those who stood out on the scout team this past season but he wasn't eligible to play in 2011, needing to get his academic house in order. But now that he is eligible, the redshirt freshman looks to have found a home on the d-line if this early spring is any indication.

And while there are a lot of players subbing in and out with the 1s this spring throughout the Cougar lineup on both sides of the ball, in listening to Breske, Cooper seems to have made the most of his early opportunities.

"Cooper's flying around," Breske said. "We're bouncing in a three man look and a four man front, so we've got to get better at our stunt that we're teaching, but his eyes are up. He's shown a lot of enthusiasm."

Cooper could conceivably line up at DE or DT depending on down, distance and situation. And although Cooper's listed at around 280, he spent most of 2011 on the edge.

"With my speed, strength and athleticism, I can be versatile. If they move me outside, I can beat lineman with my speed. I'm just quick so I can run down the quarterback and chase down the ball carrier. I'm just using my god-given ability to try and get this team ready to win, that's all," said Cooper.

Breske agrees that Cooper is versatile, and what he wants most is for him to use his athleticism to his advantage.

"If we're going to play fast and do the things we want to do on defense, we have to be athletic," Breske said. "That's what we're trying to establish as coaches right now."

At 6-4, 278 pounds, he's the quickest interior lineman the Cougs have on the roster this spring and he's right up there with the d-ends, too. Traditionally, the nose tackle in a 3-4, ideally, checks in at 300-pounds plus. But Cooper is confident of his ability to get the job done inside if called upon. And he's been winning his share of battles up front, said Breske.

Cooper says sitting out last season was rough, but that he greatly improved his technique under then d-line coach Todd Howard (now at Cal) and upperclassmen like DT Brandon Rankin.

"This grayshirting thing was a blessing in disguise," Cooper said. "I've got to learn not only just the game of football but how to get stronger as well. I'm ready to take my shot and work hard to get on the first string and win some football games next season. Bowl eligible, that's on my mind."

Cooper racked up 85 tackles and 11 sacks his senior year at Wilson as a prep defensive end in 2009. He was named first team all-league and all-city.

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