A Year of Sitting Prepared Cooper for 2012
Aug. 12, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
Cooper is listed as the second string defensive tackle on the team's preseason depth chart. He is one of seven freshmen or sophomores on the Hawkeye two deeps.
"We're going to be the best that we can be," said Cooper. "We're not going to worry about what the media or anybody has to say. We understand there are a lot of people doubting us, but we have the support of our team and as long as they're behind us, we're confident."
After choosing Iowa as a four-star recruit out of DeMatha Catholic (Md.) High School, Cooper credits his redshirt season for helping him transition into a player capable of stepping into a producing role in the front four.
"Everybody comes in with the intentions that they want to play, but you really have to understand that redshirting really isn't that bad," said Cooper. "It has helped me out more so than anything. It allowed me to learn the defense, learn from the older guys and get bigger, faster and stronger. I benefited from it."
Cooper developed a close knit relationship with Daniels, a fourth round draft pick of the NFL's Green Bay Packers, and that friendship helped him become a better player.
"Mike Daniels was like an older brother to me," said Cooper. "We had a lot more in common than we actually knew, so that wound up playing into it. I learned a lot from him.
"Every day I would be up underneath him and he would come up to me saying 'These are your steps', 'you need to be more crisp in this,' 'if you want to be successful these are the keys.' All I can do now is follow in those footsteps and hope to take it further."
First-year defensive line coach Reese Morgan says Cooper has the ability and mindset to step in and produce for the Hawkeyes.
"Coop is going to come along," said Morgan. "He's a good kid to work with because he listens and tries to apply what he heard from a learning standpoint. Once he learns and understands the concepts and learns how to go hard every time, he's going to be a really positive addition for us."
Senior Steve Bigach says Cooper's talent level has shown on the practice field, but he and the entire defensive line need to put in the work every day.
"Each practice everybody is trying to get better, and Darian certainly has a lot of talent," said Bigach, one of two returning starters on the front four. "Each practice, each one of us, including Darian, is moving forward and that will help us be successful."
Iowa opens the 2012 regular season Sept. 1 at Chicago's Soldier Field beginning at 2:30 p.m. (CT). The game will be televised on ESPNU.