Big shoes to fill


by - Senior Writer -
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CLEMSON – Sam CooperSam Cooper
RS So. Tight End
#86 6-5, 250
Brentwood, TN

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understands that he has big shoes to fill, and he is working every day during spring practice to make sure he can fill them without much of a drop off.

Cooper, a junior from Brentwood, Tenn., caught 10 passes for 93 yards with two touchdowns last season, but is looking to step into a starting role after the departure of Brandon FordBrandon Ford
Gr. Tight End
#80 6-4, 240
Wando, SC

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after last season, and former Mackey Award winner Dwayne AllenDwayne Allen
Tight End
#83 6-3, 255
Fayetteville, NC

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the year before.

“I’ve had two great role models,” Cooper told TigerNet last week. “Starting with Brandon Ford, and then before him it was Dwayne Allen. They are great mentors and I have the best tight end coach in the nation in Danny PearmanDanny Pearman
Assistant Head Coach / Tight Ends
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. He is great.”

In 2011, Allen caught 50 passes for 598 yards with eight touchdowns in earning the John Mackey Award, presented to the nation’s top tight end. He was selected in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts.

In 2012, Ford finished third on the team with 40 receptions, 480 yards and eight touchdowns.

In two seasons under offensive coordinator Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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, Clemson tight ends have combined to average 4.4 receptions and 51.5 yards per game, and Cooper said he understands that he has big shoes to fill.

“Brandon Ford tells me to keep looking ahead and keep pushing,” Cooper said. “He is a great role model for me. Those are big shoes to fill, but I am very confident going into the fall. This has been a great spring for me, and I want to keep getting better and make sure there isn’t a drop off at the position because of me.”

Morris said he doesn’t expect to see any reduction in production at the position.

“I tell them right now,” Morris said, “that position has been very productive for us, and we’re not going to have a drop-off this year.”

Cooper admitted that the receiving part of the game has been the biggest adjustment he has had to make, and he understands he will have to make the tough catches if he is to remain a starter.

“I have more of a blocking background,” he said. “But we go out and we work on ball skills every day. You do that over and over and you gain more confidence. I’ve also been working on my speed- working on my stance and my start and coming out of the breaks. But I have been working on my receiving. That has been a focus all spring. Just working on my hands and looking the ball in.”

Cooper has been pushed this spring by fullback/tight end Darrell SmithDarrell Smith
RS Jr. Fullback
#40 6-2, 250
Gadsden, AL

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, converted wide receiver Stanton SeckingerStanton Seckinger
RS So. Tight End
#81 6-4, 210
Isle of Palms, SC

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and freshmen Jay Jay McCulloughJay Jay McCullough
Fr. Tight End
#89 6-3, 230
Fort Mill, SC

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and Jordan LeggettJordan Leggett
Fr. Tight End
# 6-6, 235
Navarre, FL

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.

“This spring has been very exciting,” Cooper said. “We have great talent coming right behind me and we have great competition every day.”


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