January 4, 2012

Cooper looks to make an early impact

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. | When Amari Cooper committed to the University of Alabama in September, he picked the Crimson Tide in large part because he felt that's where he had the best opportunity to make an early impact.

After the season, Alabama will lose Brandon Gibson, Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze, three senior wide receivers who have all made significant contributions this year. Cooper sees the three departures as an opportunity.

"I feel like if I go up there and do what I know I can do, it will be easy for me to start early," Cooper said. "My biggest thing is learning the plays, because I feel like I have the ability to go out there and play early."

To help with learning the playbook and getting acclimated to the Crimson Tide's offense, the Florida wide receiver opted to graduate early from Miami Northwestern High School and plans to enroll early at UA.

"As an offensive player, it's tough when you go in there three weeks before the first game and try to learn the playbook," Cooper said. "Defense is different. When they told me I had an opportunity to play early, I felt like graduating early was the best thing for me."

Cooper plans to make the drive up to Alabama with his mother Monday. Orientation for early enrollees is scheduled for the next day, and classes begin Wednesday.

Although the distance from his home and family is concerning, Cooper is excited to begin life in college.

"I can't wait," he said. "I can't wait to get up there and play, but I also know I'm going to miss my family and stuff like that. Still, going to college is something that I always wanted to do, so I just can't wait."

UA assistant coach Jeff Stoutland, Cooper's main recruiter, has tried to relieve any worries the top recruit has of being far from home. Stoutland coached at Miami for four seasons before taking the job at Alabama.

"Coach Stoutland was just telling me that I could come to his house anytime I want to," Cooper said. "He said it will feel like home with the southern hospitality up there."

With the addition of Cooper, Chris Black - who's also enrolling early - Casey Gladney and now Eddie Williams, Alabama has put together one of the top receiver classes in the nation. Cooper, for one, is excited about the group coming in.

"I'm very excited," he said. "Every time I play, I want to have another great receiver on the other side of me, so they won't double-team me. I hate getting double-teamed, so it's going to be good."

Is it a coincidence that Black, Cooper and Williams, three Rivals100 receivers, are all from the state of Florida?

"No, that's where all the best receivers come from."

Reach Greg Ostendorf at greg@tidesports.com.

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