– There’s a lot of buzz in this year’s NFL Draft when it comes to interior linemen. In fact, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock has made it known that North Carolina G Jonathan Cooper and Alabama G Chance Warmack are two of the best players in the draft regardless of position, in his opinion.
– Cooper just took his turn talking to the media, checking in at 6’2, 312 pounds. He said that’s up from the 285 pounds he was playing at during the season as UNC transitioned from a power, pro style scheme to more spread and no huddle in 2012.
– Cooper also discussed how he fits into a power or zone blocking scheme, his versatility and how he’s grown from overweight water boy to one of this draft’s hottest names.
(On playing guard and center)
I played predominantly guard. I did a lot of snapping in practice and played one game at center. It was in 2010 and I didn’t do very well. Our original starting center kind of took that role over and I went back to left guard. I aim to try to be as versatile a player as I can so whether it’s left guard, right guard or center I want to be able to do that at a professional level.
(On gaining weight to get to where he is now)
It worked out fairly well. During the season I had gotten down to about 285 pounds doing the spread/no huddle offense and it just about tripled the number of plays we ran in practice so that kind of sped up my metabolism. But now I am up to 312 and I do feel the difference. I feel the power, I feel like I’ve got just a little more butt behind me and I feel like I am ready to be more of a physical player.
(On how he gained the weight)
Yes. Just trying to eat as much as I possibly could and just eat, eat, eat. And sometimes you had to sacrifice maybe not the healthiest things but just get the weight on and then just work hard to get it where it needed to be.
(On his comfort in any blocking scheme)
We had a few gap schemes and zone blocking schemes. Prior to my senior season we were a big power team. Even this year we had multiple power plays so I feel comfortable in a zone scheme, power scheme, whatever they ask of me I feel like I can do it and do it well.
(On if it’s hard to get noticed as a guard)
I think it is. I am very blessed to be playing guard and to be as highly regarded as I am. I am thankful for that. But it’s not a glamour position. They like guys who run power and run it consecutive times to just smash people until they can’t hardly play. So it’s not a glamour position and it is harder to be scouted but I am grateful because I have been blessed with the opportunity.
(On the chance of being drafted)
The fun part is the possibility of being drafted. It’s been a dream for a long time and even as a guard, people are like there’s no way he can go early, maybe he’ll go third or fourth or whatever but the possibility of being drafted and the possibility of being drafted high (is fun).
(On what he does best)
In game, my biggest thing is I love pulling and I love getting out in space. Those are two of my biggest things whether it’s power and getting on a linebacker quickly and trying to crush him or a screen or pull and getting out into space, I really love that.
(On being the first guard taken)
I know there are a bunch of good guys in this draft and if we all get drafted high and I’m not the first guard taken, I’m not mad at all. I’m a competitor and I love to compete so if I am drafted first out of the guards, I’ll be ecstatic. If I’m drafted high and I’m not the first, I’ll be OK just the same.
He is a big guy. I was glad I got to see him in person for the first time and see that he is a human. After all that I hear about him, they just make him seem unstoppable. But he is a big guy, he’s a powerful guy, he usually gets on his lineman and dominates him. He gets to the second level well and he was on a national championship offensive line so obviously they are doing something right and he’s doing well for himself.
(On ignoring mock drafts and rumors)
From any credible sources? Nothing. But I try not to look at all that stuff. But my dad and friends will say ‘Hey, did you see this mock draft and this poll and all this stuff?’ I really try not to look at it because nothing is set in stone yet. For me to get my hopes up off something somebody thought about or created then I’m not doing myself any favors.
(On his playing style)
I’d say I’m a combination of power and athleticism. I can run power, you can look at it from my first three years of film where we were a pro style offense and power was our staple play. Then this year I really showed my athletic ability getting out into space, we ran a bunch of screens to get out into the second or third level and getting on linebackers and DBs and such.
(On his goals for the Combine)
I hope to show that I am a very athletic player. On the bench press, some people feel like I’m undersized and maybe not as strong so maybe put up some good bench numbers and just show I can be a complete player to fit in any system.
(On his targeted amount of bench press reps)
My goal is 35. If I can get that, I’ll be happy with myself. Anything beyond that, I’ll be floating.
(On not being able to play Pop Warner because was too big)
That is true. It definitely was pent up. I was just a fat little kid and always getting picked on. I was like ‘I’m going to play football.’ That’s a dream of mine and I want to play. I was a water boy for my brother’s Pop Warner team for a couple of years and then I was finally able to play my seventh grade year in middle school. I was kind of big and soft but I was able to learn the game, get some toughness about me and I was able to excel.
(On how he got in shape after he started playing)
I had a coach in high school who really taught me mental toughness. He was always trying to break us and he really taught me that you always have one more rep left in you and just keep pushing and you’ll make it. That really helped me with the mental aspect and the physical aspect.
– Cooper is a player that could sneak his way into the top 15 but if he doesn’t, there’s certainly a chance he could be a Ram. The Rams have a need at left guard and with Cooper’s ability to block out in space and provide some power, he could be an ideal fit in that situation. It’s unlikely he’d be there when the Rams pick again at 22 so if they did decide they’d want him, 16 would have to be the spot.
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