Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Your New Gophers: Keanon Cooper

PJS Note: In an effort to prepare you for the myriad new faces on Tim Brewster's 2008Golden Gophers, we're going to methodically brief you on each newcomer. To Brewster's credit the Gophers compiled their best recruiting class in recent memory (17th best in the country by Rivals' rankings).

Your New Gophers: Keanon Cooper

There is no question that one of Minnesota's two primary weaknesses last season was in the secondary. This is nothing new for Minnesota, as the Gophers have traditionally struggled to stop high-flying, spread offense teams. But with Tim Brewster installing the spread offense himself, moving away from the ball control offense under Glen Mason, the secondary needs to be that much better. The quicker the Gophers score, the more possessions the opponent is going to have to exploit a beleaguered secondary. Brewster knew this and addressed it with his 2008 recruiting class.

One newcomer who could have an immediate impact is Dallas Skyline safety Keanon Cooper, a 6' 190 pound athlete who could have went to a number of programs including Michigan, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Miami or Kansas.

But the biggest obstacle in Minnesota's way for Cooper was Texas Tech, where he originally committed. But Cooper decided to drop that commitment and join three of his high school friends who had also committed to the University. We'll get to Cooper's classmates at a later date, but this should indicate one reason why Cooper picked the Gophers.

Cooper is ranked as Rivals' 24th best safety in the country (though he also could be played at outside linebacker, where a lack of quickness was another weakness for the Gophers), and was one of two Gophers to make the site's Big Ten Signing Day Dream Team, the other being quarterback Marqueis Gray.

Academically, Cooper seems to be anything but a problem child, having finished in the top quarter of his senior class. He's described by his coach as an "outstanding student" and "a relentless player."

ESPN.Com's Football Recruiting Blog called Cooper perhaps "the most versatile defensive prospect in this class." By versatile, ESPN means exactly that. They go on to praise him for wreaking havoc at safety, linebacker and even defensive end. That to me sounds versatile! So, while Cooper is listed as a safety, don't be surprised if he is used in all sorts of places. It's up to new defensive coordinator Ted Roof to put him in position to succeed. Let's hope Roof gets creative.