Look no further than last week’s Big Ten Media Days to know who is leading the charge for the 2014 version of the Huskers’ defense.
Joining offensive standouts Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell was not renowned loudmouth (but talented) cornerback Josh Mitchell, nor was it superstar defensive end Randy Gregory. Instead, it was senior safety Corey Cooper.
Cooper may not have the national presence of Gregory or the gift of gab like Mitchell, but there is no doubt that he will be counted on to lead the Blackshirts in 2014.
The Maywood, IL product is known for being a big hitter. He’s earned that reputation over 38 total appearances and 17 starts, including all 13 from a year ago.
In 2013, he led the team in tackles with 91 including 52 of the solo variety. He added an interception and a pass breakup to his stat line as well.
He’ll look to make improvement on his ball skills, but wide receivers beware: if you come across the middle, he will be waiting for you.
“I take a lot of pride in it, that’s what I base my game on. That’s what I like to do.” Cooper told the Grand Island Independent’s Bob Hamar.
With young talent up front and a very athletic linebacking corps in front of him going into 2014, it’ll be up to him and his fellow defensive backs to make good on the backend.
“Last year was my first year starting, my first year getting significant playing time, so I was kind of feeling things out on the fly. Now I feel comfortable out there. I know what I’m doing.”
His senior year started off on the rocky end when a foot injury kept him out of spring ball, but it’s likely that the rest and mental reps with the playbook will pay off considering he knows the physical ropes.
Selected as a first-team All-Big Ten player by BTN and an honorable mention selection by the conference’s coaches, the son of a policeman will have a lot of eyes on him.
When I look at Corey Cooper, a former Husker great comes to mind almost immediately. He played corner as a freshman and was known as a ferocious hitter, too.
That man from Husker yesteryear is Mike Brown. Brown was and is as respected as they come in Nebraska football circles.
He was a 1998 first-team All-Big 12 selection after leading the team in tackles with 102, still the team’s position record for tackles in a season. The following season, Brown collected 96 more tackles along with two sacks. He also took a big leap in creating turnovers with six fumbles caused (one recovered) as well as five interceptions.
That 1999 season, Brown earned first-team All-American status and went on to be selected in the second round of the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears.
Is that too high of a bar to set for Cooper? Maybe, but we can’t deny the excitement that surrounds him heading into the season.
Whether he reaches that Mike Brown level of excellence or not, Big Ten receivers should keep their heads on a swivel. The Huskers’ secondary has a big-time leader and he will bring the lumber.
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