Zerrick Cooper has a sense of urgency when it comes to quarterback job
|Thursday, January 19, 2017, 3:26 PM- -|
Zerrick Cooper has been on campus for a year this month, but for the first time since he arrived, he knows he has a chance to be Clemson’s starting quarterback.
He has a sense of urgency.
Cooper enrolled at Clemson last summer and hoped to earn a little playing time, but with veterans like Nick Schuessler and Kelly Bryant ahead of him on the depth chart and Deshaun Watson firmly entrenched as the starter, it made sense for him to redshirt.
Cooper spent much of the fall watching, learning, participating in meetings and aching for the chance to show what he can do. However, even some of his scout team snaps were usurped by defensive coordinator Brent Venables, whose Jimmy Greenbeans persona played the part of opposing quarterbacks on a frequent basis.
For someone who was used to playing every snap, it was hard for Cooper to sit and watch.
“It's actually been hard for me to redshirt,” Cooper told TigerNet at the Fiesta Bowl. “I am not used to not playing. But in other ways it's been pretty good, running the offense and learning behind Deshaun. So other than not playing, it's been pretty good.”
I asked Cooper if there was one thing he learned, one takeaway, from sitting and watching the past year and he was quick to answer.
“Urgency. Everything that you do has to have a sense of urgency,” Cooper said. “Being the quarterback and having that role at Clemson means you have leadership on the team, so learning from Ben (Boulware) and Deshaun and Tootie (Cordrea Tankersley), I know leadership means a lot. I have that sense of urgency.”
Cooper, out of Jonesboro, Georgia, was rated as the fourth-best overall prospect in Georgia and the ninth-best quarterback prospect in the nation by ESPN. During a stellar senior season at Jonesboro, he completed 161-267 passes for 2,039 yards and 21 touchdowns while tossing just four interceptions. He also added 359 yards on the ground and was named Region 4A Player of the Year.
A knee injury sidelined him for part of his junior season, but he says he’s 100 percent and ready to show the coaching staff what he can do now that he has their full attention.
“The knee is pretty good. I am still working on it and doing things to keep it healthy. But it feels great,” Cooper said. “I feel great. I am ready for the spring. I know I have to keep working and everything will play out the way it is supposed to play out.”
Cooper said there was one important lesson he learned from Watson – attention to detail.
“I learned about taking notes and being attentive,” Cooper said. “He takes a lot of notes, and that is part of what makes him a great quarterback. You have to know everything about the team you are playing.”
Cooper has added size during his year on campus – he currently sits at 6-3, 217 – and said he hopes to be somewhere between 220 and 225 when fall practice begins.
“I don’t really have a set goal when it comes to my weight,” he said. “I have been trying to add muscle and make sure I still have speed. Kelly (Bryant) is a great runner, so I want to learn the system and make it where I can make plays with both my arm and my feet. I am making sure I learn the system and I am putting in the work to make it happen.”
In the meantime, he said he isn’t worrying about the future.
“I don't have butterflies. I know if I go out and make the plays I know I can make it will work out,” Cooper said. “The coaches haven't told me anything, but I know I will get my shot. So I will just continue to work and get better and make sure I take advantage of my opportunity.”