If Theodore Roosevelt were alive today, he’d likely be a big fan of safety Corey Cooper. A representative of Husker football at Big Ten media days, Cooper abides by the trust buster’s foreign policy slogan of “speak softly and carry a big stick.”
Well, he packs a wallop, anyway.
Cooper’s development has been like that of an awkward teenager. Sometimes he looked confident and like an All-Conference defender, while others made onlookers wonder if his shoes weren’t untied.
He’s now fully matured and given the Blackshirts a heat-seeking missile that has the ability to punish both pass catchers and ball carriers.
For those not familiar, safety is the most important position in Bo Pelini’s Cover Two defense. Yes, more important than MIKE linebacker.
The last line of defense is the one that must be ready to clean up the front seven’s mess should it fall on its face.
Pelini doesn’t put a safety out there he doesn’t trust. Sometimes you won’t find the most athletic guy at the position come game day, usually one of the smartest.
No offense to Matt O’Hanlon, but he wasn’t picked in 2009 because he’d beat out wide receivers in a foot race.
As you can see above, the 2011 season was the point when fans and analysts could make neither heads nor tails of Cooper’s future. At that point, it was easy to look at the guy as a potential scrub. Slowly, he improved before settling in last season.
His 91 tackles led the team which meant one of two things: either Nebraska was getting gashed for yardage or he stepped up and made plays when it mattered.
Nebraska’s 2013 pass defense ranked No. 23 overall giving up 214.6 yards per game. It’s rushing defense checked in at No. 54 with 156.1 yards given up per contest.
Factoring in injuries, turnovers, penalties and everything else that went wrong last season, teams often kept to the ground when working against the Huskers.
Did Cooper make that big of an impact? On occasion, but he’s made a big leap that will enable him to be one in 2014
That said, he did provide a unique weapon as he slipped into the backfield a few times. Now finally feeling the part of a leader, he’s poised to set up a summer home there, if necessary.
“I think this season I’m really going to open some eyes up. Now I feel relaxed. I know what I’m doing. I think I’ll play up to my potential.” – Cooper to the Lincoln Journal Star regarding his second year as a starter.
The “C” he’ll be wearing on his left shoulder as he walks out of the tunnel is well-earned.
To any offensive coordinator looking to make progress against Cooper, beware. He may not start a play near the ball, but he can be on it in the flick of two fingers and he’s bringing a whole lot of hurt with him.
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Tags: Nebraska Cornhuskers