The 90 Illini #58: Ralph Cooper July 5, 2012
6′-1″, 230 lbs.
Sophomore (on scholarship, 3 years to play 3)
Fairfield Central HS / Winnsboro, South Carolina
ALE Ranking last year: #79
What I Know About Him:
Cooper is the kind of linebacker Vic Koenning loves. Height doesn’t matter, nose for the ball is important, coachable kid from Georgia/South Carolina just like most of the linebackers Koenning coached at Clemson. One problem now: Vic Koenning is in North Carolina.
So it will be interesting to see how our linebacker situation sorts itself out in the next few years. At the Will and the Mike, your starters are Zook guys like BadNewsBrown and Houston Bates. Backups are hand-picked Koenning guys like Cooper and Henry Dickinson (plus Zeph Grimes, another South Carolina linebacker). And this fall, Beckman brings in two kids he recruited after he got the job here: Mason Monheim, who was leaning towards Toledo or Illinois when Beckman got the job and made his decision easy, and TJ Neal, who Beckman plucked in January. Two Zook guys start, three Koenning guys back them up, and two Beckman guys jump in the mix next month (next month!).
What I Expect From Him:
My guess: Cooper is our backup middle linebacker. Jonathan Brown starts, and Cooper gets a few series here and there plus lots of special teams work. And I think Dickinson is the same (backs up Bates, lots of special teams), although Dickinson is trying to pass Houston Bates (might happen) and Cooper is trying to pass Jonathan Brown (won’t happen).
And I think Brown determines Cooper’s future as well. If he leaves after this next season and heads to the NFL (I don’t think he will – he’s not a combine guy), then Cooper gets to start in 2013. If Brown sticks around for 2013 and wins the Butkus (why not?), the Cooper won’t get a starting spot until 2014.