Linebacker Cedrick Cooper has lots of goals for the spring: run faster, hit holes harder, memorize the many schemes, tackle better and further develop his fundamentals.
But linebackers coach Kirk Botkin, who describes Cooper as “young and green,” says the redshirt freshman could score playing time this fall.
“He can run, he’ll hit you, he’s physical, but we’ve just gotta get him lined up and get him going in the right direction and looking at the right things,” Botkin said.
Cooper, a three-star recruit from Lithonia, Ga., chose South Carolina over several other schools, including Tennessee, Arkansas and Ole Miss.
He racked up 97 tackles during his senior season and was listed among the country's top 100 outside linebackers. He was widely praised by coaches as a hard hitter with quick feet.
Cooper (6-2, 215) will compete for playing time with Damario Jeffery and Shaq Wilson, among others.
After Tuesday’s practice, Cooper said acclimating to the speed and intensity of college football would be challenging but manageable. Botkin said Cooper’s first practice was rough and unnatural at times, but he saw potential in the freshman's enthusiasm.
“He’s a big effort guy, and we’re excited about him, because he’s had a tremendous winter,” Botkin said.
Cooper said offseason workouts under new conditioning coach Joe Connolly were more difficult than a previous regiment under former coach Craig Fitzgerald.
He also bonded with much of the team, which he now considers more like family than fellow players.
“Even if I didn’t like them, I’d have to see them everyday for the next three or four years,” Cooper said with a laugh.