Tennessee’s Butch Jones Says Amari Cooper Should Be In Heisman Trophy Discussion
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Earlier this season, he was hailed as a potential future No. 1 overall NFL draft pick by both an opposing head coach and a legendary wide receiver after his hot start to the season.
Now, his name is being thrown into the mix for the most prestigious award in college football after his best game yet.
After a single-game school record of 224 receiving yards in his team's 34-20 victory at Tennessee on Saturday night, Volunteers coach Butch Jones had high praise for Alabama's Amari Cooper.
Asked if it was disappointing to allow the Crimson Tide’s top wideout to have the type of performance that he did, Jones didn’t take any time to hesitate before answering the question.
“No, everyone’s had that (against him),” Jones said. “He’s a good player. He should be up there in the Heisman Trophy race. If you watched them play, you’d see that.”
Cooper wasted little time making his case against the Vols. On the game's first play from scrimmage, he took a short pass from Blake Sims 80 yards for a touchdown. One drive and three more catches later, he caught a 41-yard pass for a second score. By the end of the first quarter alone, Cooper had 185 yards receiving on five catches and two touchdowns.
“I felt great out there. I love playing at this stadium for some reason with all these people,” said Cooper, who had seven catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns at Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium two years ago as a freshman.
Cooper’s 224-yard game was three yards better than Julio Jones’ 221 at Tennessee in 2010, and puts him just one yard shy of matching Jones’ single-season record of 1,133 and 55 yards short of the all-time career mark of 2,923 held by D.J. Hall (2004-07).
With nine touchdowns this season, Cooper is just two touchdowns away from tying his own school record set in 2012. He also needs only seven more receptions to match Jones’ single-season mark of 78 and 19 to draw even with Hall’s all-time career record of 194 receptions.
Former NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson and current ESPN NFL analyst took to Twitter during the Alabama-Tennessee game to indirectly call Cooper a Heisman frontrunner:
It’s not the first time, he’s received high praise from a current ESPN analyst and a former star receiver in the NFL, either. In addition to claiming he was worthy of the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, Cris Carter, the former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year, said on the “Mike and Mike” radio show in September that Cooper is the best wide receiver in Alabama school history and compared him to a young Randy Moss.
“He has unbelievable speed, unbelievable demeanor, route running, the sky is the limit,” Carter said, according to BamaOnLine.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen had similar praise for Cooper, following Alabama’s season-opening win against the Mountaineers in Atlanta. Despite putting up identical numbers to Cooper in that game (and in nearly every other game this season), Holgorsen said Cooper, and not West Virginia senior wideout Kevin White, “might be the first overall pick in the draft,” a few days after the loss.
“He was a really good player,” Holgorsen said, according to WVUSports.com. “He got his. He caught the ball, and he got open.”
For the season, Cooper is tied for third in the nation in receptions (71), tied for fourth in receptions per game (8.9), second in yards (1,132), second in yards per game (141.5) and second in touchdowns (nine).
“The guy’s a great player,” Saban said of Cooper during Saturday’s postgame press conference. “When he plays fast, he’s hard to cover.”