Cooper continues to impress Saban

Cooper continues to impress Saban

March 20th, 2014 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper (9) runs against Virginia Tech in this file photo.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Amari Cooper has made plenty of plays during his first two years as an Alabama receiver, and he doesn't appear to be letting up.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban used "phenomenal" when asked after Wednesday's practice to describe Cooper, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior from Miami. Cooper amassed 1,736 yards the past two seasons under offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and is now working under new coordinator Lane Kiffin.

"Amari has really played outstanding football for us for two years," Saban said in a news conference. "About halfway through his freshman year, he really became an outstanding player. He got very confident and knew what he was doing, and last year he had another good year.

"Obviously he's a guy we want to get the ball to as many times as we can. Lane will do a really good job of getting the ball into the playmakers' hands, so I would think he would have an outstanding year."

Wednesday's two-hour practice was the third of Alabama's 15 spring workouts and the first in pads. The Crimson Tide will practice again Friday before the university goes on spring break.

Cooper broke Alabama freshman records for receptions (59) and yards (1,000) in 2012, when the Crimson Tide won their third national championship in four years. In the 42-14 rout of Notre Dame in the BCS title game, Cooper had six catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

He failed to notch a second straight 1,000-yard season a year ago largely due to nagging toe and foot injuries but still had his moments. Though Alabama lost a dramatic game to rival Auburn, Cooper shredded the Tigers with six receptions for 178 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown from AJ McCarron that put Alabama up 28-21 in the fourth quarter.

Now Cooper is adjusting to five quarterbacks who are vying for depth-chart positioning before Jacob Coker arrives this summer from Florida State. He said all the quarterbacks have been working on their timing and that he likes what Kiffin is providing.

"He has come in and made the offense more simple and player-friendly," Cooper told reporters earlier this week. "The way the plays are called, it's easy to recognize what you have to do."

Cooper described Kiffin as "pretty cool" and "laid back" but said that he pays attention to everything.

Tide tidbits

Saban said scheduling so far has allowed freshman cornerback Tony Brown to maximize his time in both football and track. He added that Brown may have to miss a couple of football practices in April because of track but that he doesn't mind since he is learning the fundamentals now. ... Junior linebacker Dillon Lee has been working both inside and outside, and Saban said he is vying for a starting spot. ... Alabama's first-team line on Wednesday contained Leon Brown, Arie Kouandjio, Ryan Kelly, Alphonse Taylor and Austin Shepherd.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.