Whether Alabama decides on Blake Sims or Jacob Coker at quarterback or continues using both in games, there has been one proven Crimson Tide weapon inflicting damage each week regardless of who's under center.
Junior receiver Amari Cooper has been brilliant in the victories over West Virginia and Florida Atlantic. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder from Miami has 25 receptions for 319 yards, leading the nation in each category.
Cooper set Alabama freshman records with 59 catches for 1,000 yards during the Tide's 2012 national championship season, but the improvement he's made since has coach Nick Saban beaming.
"He's always had great ability, and he's played a lot of really, really good football for us," Saban said this week, "but I think the biggest difference is that he's matured in terms of his ability to overcome bad plays and never really show any frustration. He can just go on to the next play and continue to play well. That's really effectively made him a much more successful player, because his consistency in performance is much, much better because of that."
After catching 12 passes for 130 yards in the opener in Atlanta, Cooper tallied 13 receptions for 189 yards and a touchdown in last week's rout of the Owls. His 13 catches tied Alabama's single-game mark set by DJ Hall against Tennessee in 2007.
Cooper is on pace to amass 150 receptions for 1,914 yards, which would shatter the current Southeastern Conference single-season standards held by Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews (112 catches in 2013) and LSU's Josh Reed (1,740 yards in 2001). That may be getting way ahead of things, but Cooper has been incredibly productive amid a developing quarterback situation.
"They've both been doing a really good job," Cooper said in a recent news conference. "Both of those guys have been throwing on time and have been reading defenses well."
Asked if he would like the establishment of one quarterback sooner than later, Cooper said, "It's a process that you can't rush."
Cooper has 2,055 career receiving yards, trailing just Hall (2,923 in 2004-07), Julio Jones (2,653 in 2008-10) and Ozzie Newsome (2,070 in 1974-77) in program history. He also has 16 career touchdowns and needs two to tie the school mark set by Dennis Homan in 1965-67.
His ascent in the record books could continue at a rapid rate, as his 25 catches so far are six more than the rest of Alabama's receivers combined, but Saban said opposing defenses aren't shifting their focus to Cooper just yet.
"I think people are still sort of playing us to stop the run, mostly," Saban said. "I think that's what has opened up some of the passing game for us. I think that balance is going to be critical for us to be an effective offensive team in the future."
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