Alabama's true freshman phenom Amari Cooper is having an incredible season, and if he continues his current trend, he will become a Crimson Tide legend.
At a glance it seems like Cooper will even have a better career than former Tide star Julio Jones. Bold claim? Sure, but there is significant substance for such.
Jones was a much better athlete as a true freshman at 6'3" and around 210 pounds, depending on the source. He also had blazing speed that was showcased throughout his career as well as the 2011 NFL combine where he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash with a broken foot.
Being a freakish athlete often makes you a great football player, but when those qualities are combined with versatility, it becomes a nearly unstoppable combination.
At 6'1" and 198 pounds, Cooper is not quite as gifted physically as Jones is, but he has some things that "Juuuuuuuulio" did not have during his time with the Tide.
This isn't a knock on the legendary No. 8, but a realistic analysis. Jones did not run clean routes most of the time and dropped a lot more (easy) catches than he should have. He relied on pure athletic prowess more often than not. He was simply stronger and faster than the other guy on almost every play.
As good as Julio Jones was, Amari Cooper seems to have a more polished game. His route-running is outstanding, and I could almost swear he has Krazy Glue on his gloves.
His routes and hands as a true freshman look better than Jones' did as a junior. Especially his hands. Sorry, Julio.
Cooper has the perfect balance of athleticism, smarts and just pure talent. He finished the game against a very underrated Ole Miss team that is just so much better than it was a year ago with eight receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
That is only a 10.5 yards-per-catch average, but they were spectacular catches with most of them occurring in heavy traffic. Quarterback A.J. McCarron completed 22-of-30 passes. Eight of those completions landed in the hands of Cooper and nearly half of McCarron's passes were intended for Cooper.
This game against Ole Miss wasn't shooting fish in a barrel for McCarron. This revamped defense came to play, and they came to win. They showed it for 60 minutes.
McCarron is a smart and efficient quarterback. He doesn't make many mistakes and takes what the defense gives him. That is exactly what Nick Saban groomed the Mobile, Ala., gunslinger for.
Though he struggled with it in the past, Alabama's signal-caller has taken the open receiver over the big play almost every time this season. McCarron simply throws it to the guy most likely to make the catch, regardless of how deep he has run.
He rarely makes dangerous throws that could result in turnovers. McCarron either places the ball where nobody but his target can make the grab, or where he is positive the receiver can make a play.
And make a play is what Cooper did many times against Ole Miss, as well as the previous four games. In the first five games of his true freshman campaign, Cooper has 17 receptions for 222 yards and three touchdowns. In his first five games in a crimson jersey, Julio Jones had 16 receptions for 226 yards and four touchdowns.
Want another comparison? How about with a back-to-back Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver? Former Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon only had 20 receptions for 260 yards and two touchdowns during his entire true freshman campaign.
As a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Blackmon is 6'1" and 210 pounds. His size is quite similar to that of Alabama's true freshman.
The bottom line is that while Amari Cooper is not perfect in every aspect, he is damn close. He has almost ideal size. He has almost ideal speed. He has almost ideal hands. He runs almost ideal routes. That's one hell of a combination for any college football receiver, but as a true freshman it is nothing short of amazing.
I do believe A.J. McCarron just found his favorite target, and it certainly looks like Alabama will have its first Fred Biletnikoff Award winner in the very near future.
If he wins it is not an issue. What is an issue is how the rest of Bama's opponents are going to deal with this ridiculously talented true freshman for the following two years, because Cooper is going in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft.
You know what's really scary? Before his injury, I thought true freshman Chris Black would have the better rookie campaign. Here's hoping A.J. McCarron sticks around next year. If that happens, the Crimson Tide just might have the best passing attack in the history of the SEC.
Too soon? Not so fast, my friend!
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