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The Saban Top 100: No. 10 Amari Cooper

The Saban Top 100: No. 10 Amari Cooper

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The Saban Top 100: No. 10 Amari Cooper

BamaCentral is ranking the top 100 players of the Nick Saban era at Alabama over the course of the 2020 football season

10] Amari Cooper, WR

  • Won 2014 Fred Biletnikoff Award
  • 2014 SEC Offensive Player of the Year
  • 2014 Unanimous All-American
  • 2014 All-SEC
  • Fourth-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft
  • Finished third for the 2014 Heisman Trophy
  • Broke Alabama’s single-game receiving yards record with 224 against Tennessee and matched it against Auburn
  • Set an SEC record with 124 receptions in 2014
  • Set school single-season records with 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns
  • Became Alabama's all-time leader in receptions (228), receiving yards (3,463), and receiving touchdowns (31)
  • Team captain

As the 2012 season progressed, it was almost as if Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper was continually one-upping himself.

There was his reaching over a defender for a touchdown reception during his breakout performance against Ole Miss;

The epic showing at Tennessee that included a 42-yard touchdown and his 162 receiving yards to set an Alabama freshman receiving record;

His 54-yard touchdown against Texas A&M to give the Crimson Tide a chance;

The 29-yard touchdown catch-and-run against Auburn when two defenders missed and collided.

But then came the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, where the freshman who had yet to turn 19 really caused jaws to drop. Not only did his 44-yard catch over safety Bacarri Rambo spark Alabama’s comeback against Georgia, but his spectacular 45-yard touchdown bomb from quarterback AJ McCarron held up for a 32-28 victory to put the Crimson Tide into the BCS National Championship Game in Miami.

No wonder McCarron told reporters during the days leading up to Alabama crushing Notre Dame that he was “One of those freakish freshmen that you get in every once in a while in a class. You can't say enough about Coop.”

The same held true about his rookie numbers. When Cooper’s first season finally ended, his 59 catches were the sixth most in Crimson Tide history, while his 1,000 yards were tied for the fourth-best season with David Palmer in 1993, training only Julio Jones and DJ Hall. The 11 receiving touchdowns, though, broke Al Lary’s longstanding single-season record of 10 that had stood since 1950.

He also topped Jones’ freshman records of 58 catches and 924 yards, set in 2008, while only starting the last nine of 14 games. Consequently, Cooper was a big reason why Alabama’s offense set program records for points scored (542), offensive touchdowns (68), and receiving touchdowns (31), en route to capturing another crystal football.

“I don't feel like I did a whole lot last year as far as my expectations,” Copper said.

No one else quite saw it that way about the former prize recruit out of Northwestern High School in Miami, who at 6-foot-1 and roughly 185 pounds wasn’t dubbed as being the biggest or fastest, but became McCarron’s go-to man, especially on third downs.

Even if you asked his teammates what made Cooper so good, they all pointed to different things.

“Just to be able to get in and out of cuts,” McCarron said. “I think he shows whenever he gets the ball, he’s able to make one cut and can make a guy miss. I think that’s the biggest thing with him, is you very rarely see him not make an open-field tackler miss.”

"His hard work and dedication to the game,” tight end Brian Vogler said. “He really loves the game. There are a lot of guys who are good at the game and like the game. He really loves the game and tries to get better every day."

“He's very explosive off the line,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix offered. “He's quick, he can get open. He runs his routes very well. Very explosive.”

Actually, cornerback John Fulton, who had gone up against Cooper nearly every day in practice since he arrived on the Capstone, agreed with that last part.

“He has this thing he does off the line,” Fulton said. “I'm kind of catching onto it now, but he's going to develop something else to mess with my head. He'll take two steps outside, shake inside, shake outside and then shake back inside for a slant and its under .5 seconds. It's so fast, you can't time it. It's crazy.”

Fulton said about the only thing he could do in those situations is wait for Cooper to finally release, and hope to keep up. Once Cooper got a step on a defender it was usually over.

That seemed to happen only more as Cooper gained more experience.

“He's a lot better player mentally,” Vogler said. “He knows how to read things a lot better.”

While Cooper quietly said that his goal for each season was simply “to have a better year than last year, he was already poised to start challenging most of Alabama’s receiving records.

Most the season and career marks were reset before he was done.

“Some of the stuff he does, I have no idea where he learned it from, but he's absolutely amazing,” Fulton said. 

The Saban Top 100 will be revealed over the course of the 2020 football season, with the top players unveiled one a day as part of BamaCentral's 25 Days of Christmas celebration.

The series thus far:

Introduction

No. 11: Rolando McClain 

Read More

No. 12: Trent Richardson

No. 13: Andre Smith

No. 14: Quinnen Williams

No. 15: Dont'a Hightower

No. 16: Jerry Jeudy

No. 17: Jalen Hurts

No. 18: Reuben Foster

No. 19: Chance Warmack

No. 20: Mark Barron

No. 21: Jonah Williams

No. 22: Da'Ron Payne

No. 23: Ryan Kelly

No. 24: Landon Collins

No. 25: Cam Robinson

26-30: Terrence Cody, Calvin Ridley, Javier Arenas, Reggie Ragland, Jedrick Wills Jr.

31-35: Dee Milliner, D.J. Fluker, Marlon Humphrey, Rashad Evans, A'Shawn Robinson

36-40: Rashaan Evans, Dre Kirkpatrick, Marcell Dareus, Eddie Jackson, O.J. Howard

41-45: Courtney Upshaw, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Henry Ruggs III, Jarran Reed, Xavier McKinney

46-50: Dalvin Tomlinson, Antoine Caldwell, Kareem Jackson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Trevon Diggs

51-55: Mike Johnson, T.J. Yeldon, Ronnie Harrison, Damien Harris, JK Scott

56-60: Ross Pierschbacher, Eddie Lacy, Bradley Bozeman, Ryan Anderson, Glen Coffee

61-65: Greg McElroy, Josh Jacobs, Anfernee Jennings, James Carpenter, Kenyan Drake

66-70: Terrell Lewis, Blake Sims, Christian Miller, Irv Smith Jr., Tim Williams

71-75: Mack Wilson, ArDarius Stewart, Deionte Thompson, Raekwon Davis, Jalston Fowler

76-80: Josh Chapman, Cyrus Jones, Kevin Norwood, Isaiah Buggs, Jake Coker

81-85: Bo Scarbrough, Anthony Averett, Leigh Tiffin, Ed Stinson, DeQuan Menzie

86-90: Jesse Williams, Shaun Dion Hamilton, William Vlachos, Da'Shawn Hand, Arie Kouandjio

91-95: Nico Johnson, Wallace Gilberry, DJ Hall, Vinnie Sunseri, Quinton Dial

96-100: Trey DePriest, Damion Square, Christion Jones, John Parker Wilson, Simeon Castille 

10] Amari Cooper, WR

  • Won 2014 Fred Biletnikoff Award
  • 2014 SEC Offensive Player of the Year
  • 2014 Unanimous All-American
  • 2014 All-SEC
  • Fourth-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft
  • Finished third for the 2014 Heisman Trophy
  • Broke Alabama’s single-game receiving yards record with 224 against Tennessee and matched it against Auburn
  • Set an SEC record with 124 receptions in 2014
  • Set school single-season records with 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns
  • Became Alabama's all-time leader in receptions (228), receiving yards (3,463), and receiving touchdowns (31)
  • Team captain
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