Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
A few days before the Iron Bowl, Alabama Crimson Tide freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper made a bold statement on twitter. He sent out a tweet saying that the last three games of the season were going to be his best games. Here’s the tweet:
It’s easy to make bold predictions like that. Anyone can do it, and I’m sure most of you that saw it at the time didn’t think much of it. But, Cooper wasn’t playing around, and in the first two games since that tweet, Cooper has more than delivered on his promise.
Against hapless Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Cooper caught five passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. His touchdown receptions were of 37 and 29 yards, respectively, as the Crimson Tide rolled over rival Auburn 49-0 in Tuscaloosa.
And then, on the biggest of stages in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, with a spot in Miami against Notre Dame on the line, Cooper stepped up once again and delivered a masterful performance at receiver.
Cooper caught eight passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in the Tide’s 32-28 thrilling victory over the Bulldogs. Only one other wide receiver, Christion Jones, even caught a pass against Georgia, and Jones’ grab was on the second play from scrimmage on a quick slant that gained 22 yards.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron only completed 13 passes in the game, with eight going to Cooper. In the second quarter, Cooper made one of the most spectacular catches I’ve seen this season over Georgia’s Bacarri Rambo.
AJ McCarron simply lofted up what can only be described as a prayer, and it was nothing more than a jump ball between Cooper and Rambo. It looked like an easy interception for Rambo, but Cooper snatched the ball away and tucked in an improbable 44-yard catch that finally got the Alabama offense rolling. That kind of throw from McCarron shows how much confidence he has in the freshman receiver.
Of course, that was only the second biggest catch of the evening for Cooper, as he hauled in the game-winning 45-yard touchdown pass from McCarron with just over three minutes remaining in the game.
It has been an incredible freshman season for Cooper, one that not many people expected. Obviously, after enrolling early, he was expected to make an impact as a true freshman, but I don’t think anyone expected him to be this good this fast.
His play this season has led ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay to label him as the best freshman wideout in the country.
He was a little slow out of the gates, combining for just three catches and 27 yards in the first two games of the season, but he started to turn it on from there. Against Ole Miss, Cooper had his official coming out party with eight catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Three weeks later, he put on a show against Tennessee with 162 yards on seven catches and two touchdowns.He’s gotten better with each passing week, and he has 100+ receiving yards in three of the last four games.
On the season, Cooper has 895 yards on 53 catches and nine touchdowns. His numbers are approaching those of the best wide receiver in Alabama history, Julio Jones. As a freshman in 2008, Jones set the freshman record for receiving yards with 924, a mark that Cooper needs just 30 yards to break in the BCS Title game.
Cooper and Jones are different receivers, with Cooper not being blessed with the height and strength that Jones possesses. But Cooper has great speed and even better hands.
I thought after Julio Jones left school early for the NFL Draft after the 2010 season that it would be a long time before the Crimson Tide got a receiver with as much physical ability as him, but two years later Amari Cooper has emerged on the scene with the potential to be even better than Julio was in Tuscaloosa.
Through two games, Cooper has delivered on his promise of making the last three games his best three games. He has one more game to play before the promise is completely fulfilled, and it will be a homecoming for the Miami native against Notre Dame.
Cooper needs 105 yards in the BCS Championship Game to become the first Alabama freshman receiver to top 1000 yards, and with the way he has been playing, I sure wouldn’t doubt that he’ll reach that mark.
The Fighting Irish better be prepared, because Cooper has a promise to keep in South Beach. I like his chances of making good on that promise and helping Alabama to the BCS National Championship in the process.
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