WR Cooper works out for NFL execs on South Carolina pro day
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina receiver Pharoh Cooper put on a show for NFL teams on Wednesday, including sessions as a punt returner and throwing passes out of a wildcat formation.
The versatile, 5-foot-11 junior's best 40-yard dash time of the day was 4.61. By being able to demonstrate his versatility he hoped to erase a less-than-impressive showing at the NFL scouting combine last month where a balky quad muscle kept him from running and led to some dropped some passes.
Cooper was much more on his game in front of personnel from all 32 NFL teams.
''It's a big relief to have this over,'' Cooper said, smiling.
Cooper was an all-Southeastern Conference performer who caught 69 passes for 1,136 yards as a sophomore and 66 passes for 973 yards last fall.
Cooper was the headliner, but South Carolina's pro day was thinner on star power than in recent seasons. NFL coaches and general managers flocked to Williams-Brice Stadium to watch high draft picks like cornerback Stephon Gilmore, running back Marcus Lattimore and defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney work out the last few years. This time, there were no head coaches or GMs in attendance.
Clowney, a first overall pick of the Houston Texans in 2014, was on the sidelines, laughing, talking with old teammates and encouraging departing players who might one day join him in the NFL.
Clowney declined interview requests, preferring to hang with former Gamecocks like quarterback Connor Shaw, now on the Cleveland Browns roster, or safety Darian Stewart, who recently won a Super Bowl title with the Denver Broncos. Clowney got a hug from Jerri Spurrier, wife of his college coach Steve Spurrier, while first-year Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp shook hands with past players and encouraged them to support his program.
Tight end Jerell Adams caught up with his one-time teammate Clowney.
''He told me to put in the work,'' Adams said.
Almost no one did more work than Cooper, projected as a second-day selection in the second or third rounds at next month's NFL draft.
Along with all the drills, Cooper went through a full complement of pass-catching drills with former South Carolina quarterback Seth Strickland. Cooper spent time throwing passes like a receiver might on throw-back trick pass or wildcat lineup.
Cooper went through kick return workouts, including a few exercises unlikely to occur as a pro.
He would have a football in one hand while catching another arcing punt in the other empty arm. Cooper then would toss the ball in his hands up in the air as a second punt floated down, then lunged to catch the first ball back in his hands.
During one drill, Cooper caught four straight punts and kept all four footballs in his arms. No. 5, however, bounced off his chest and fell to the ground.
''I've guess I've got to work on that,'' he said.
Adams is a 6-6 tight end who impressed NFL teams at the Indianapolis combine and has watched his prospects rise from a later-round selection to a possible third-round pick. He stood on most of his workout marks in Indianapolis and largely showed off his blocking skills to interested teams. Adams had lengthy post-pro day meetings with scouts from the Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers.
Adams said his performance at the combine felt good and gave him some freedom not to sweat out his South Carolina's workouts. ''I know there was still work to be done and I felt like I came out here and did that,'' he said.
The only other projected South Carolina draftee was offensive lineman Brandon Shell, whose great uncle is NFL Hall of Famer Art Shell. The younger Shell, 6-6, 328, has the size and technique to make a difference.
''I don't care where I go.'' Shell said. ''I just want to have a chance.''