In the latest installment of GamecockAnthem's can't-miss series with South Carolina's 2011 signees, Anthem talks one-on-one with hard-hitting linebacker Cedrick Cooper, who is looking to bring his physical, punishing style of play to the field for USC this fall. Read inside as Anthem goes in-depth with the talented Peach State linebacker product on a variety of intriguing topics.
The following interview with 2011 linebacker signee Cedrick Cooper took place before he enrolled at South Carolina for the Summer I session:
Scout.com profile: Cedrick Cooper
Question: When did you first start playing football, and when exactly did you realize that you wanted to pursue a future in football?
Cooper: I first started playing football when I was in seventh grade, and I didn’t really know that I wanted to play in the future until about my tenth grade year in high school. Once I found out that I was actually good and that I could still get better, it took Lloyd Morrison, my coach - I call him my Pop - to tell me that I could possibly have a future in football. Then once I got serious about it, that’s when I really started to get into it.
Question: How would you describe yourself as a defensive player? What all do you bring to the table on the football field?
Cooper: I bring speed. I bring aggression. I’m basically like a robot out there. Whatever you tell me to do, I’m going to do, hands down.
Question: What areas would you like to improve in as a football player?
Cooper: Basically, using my legs more when I tackle.
Question: I’ve seen some film of you on the field, and it’s pretty evident that you like to hit. What is your favorite thing to do on the football field?
Cooper: I like to blitz a lot, because I love to hit the opposing player. I don’t like the player to see when I’m coming. Once he gets hit, I like him to be like, ‘What the heck was that?’
Question: What is your accurate height and weight these days?
Cooper: I’m 6-2 ½, and right now I’m 210.
Question: Do you have a target weight that you would like to get your weight up to at the college level?
Cooper: If I could get up to 225 or 230, I’d be happy.
Question: Is there any player that you tend to model your game after on the football field?
Cooper: I can see myself in college being like Sean Taylor. That’s my goal right there - to come in, smack somebody in the mouth, and just keep it moving.
Question: Gearing up for the jump to the college level, what has a typical day consisted of for you workout-wise?
Cooper: In a typical day, I wake up in the morning and run about three miles. I’ve been having personal training with Coach Ball from Stephenson High School. Other than that, I’m doing my own workouts and lifting, and then relaxing getting ready to go.
Question: What have the South Carolina coaches told you about the possibility of coming in and contributing early?
Cooper: They’ve told me a lot of things. As long I get the playbook right, have good aggression, and make sure I’m on the same level, it’s possible I could play special teams and then work my way to that outside linebacker position. They like me there because of my speed.
Question: Looking back on the recruiting process, many recruits have said going through that process is a once in a lifetime experience. Now that you’ve gone through that, what would you say really stands out to you about your recruitment as such a highly recruited prospect?
Cooper: The thing that really stands out is all of the different people I met, all the different players and coaches and how different they were.
Question: You ultimately ended up signing with South Carolina, but what were the other main schools that you were focused on down the stretch of your recruitment?
Cooper: It was down to South Carolina, Arkansas, and Ole Miss. Clemson had fallen off once Coach Rumph left. But when it really came down to it, it was South Carolina and Arkansas.
Question: How close were you to possibly choosing Arkansas in the days leading up to signing day?
Cooper: It was really close, I mean extremely close. What really took Arkansas away was South Carolina’s academics. That’s what really stood out to me. Their academics, my opportunity to play, and the relationship I had with Coach (Lorenzo) Ward and all the players when I went down there. That’s what really stood out to me and helped me make my choice.
Question: You mentioned that your three finalists were all from the SEC. What stood out to you about the opportunity to play in the SEC?
Cooper: The SEC is the hardest conference, and you’re surrounded by all of the best D-I athletes. I view it as a challenge for me to see if I can play at the highest level. I know I can play on that level, and I want to succeed in it.
Question: Can you talk about your relationship with Coach Lorenzo Ward, who recruited you for the Gamecocks?
Cooper: Coach Ward is real cool. He jumps a lot and stuff like that. He’s a real honest guy. He tells you how it’s going to be, and he doesn’t sugar coat anything. That’s what I like about him. He’s a real good guy. As a friend and as a coach, I could see myself being real close with him.
Question: Did you get to know many of the other Gamecock signees pretty well through the recruiting process?
Cooper: I don’t know many of them yet, but I know Kadetrix Marcus. He goes to Stephenson (High School). He wears #15, and he’s going in as a cornerback. Me and him are rooming with two other guys.
Question: Is it exciting for you to know that you’ll be coming into Carolina in the same class as the nation’s number one player, Jadeveon Clowney?
Cooper: Yeah, I’m excited about that. I’m glad I’m gonna be playing on the same side of the ball as him.
Question: What jersey number will you be wearing at USC?
Cooper: Most likely I’ll be wearing #18. That was my high school number, the number I’ve had ever since middle school. That’s what everybody knows me as.
Question: What kind of personal goals have you set for yourself in your first year at Carolina?
Cooper: My first goal is to get on the field, and I want to be that player that everybody watches out for as a threat to other teams. Once I get that going, I’ll just continue to strive for success.
Question: Has anyone told you what to expect with Coach Craig Fitzgerald’s strength and conditioning program when you get to Carolina? I‘ve heard those can be pretty intense.
Cooper: He’s told me to just be ready to work out. I’m ready for it.
Question: There’s a strong feeling down in South Carolina that the Gamecocks are on the verge of competing for the school’s first ever SEC Championship and possibly even a national championship. How exciting is it for you to be joining the USC program now and to have the chance to do something that has never been done before?
Cooper: I’m very excited. I hope to come in and be a good boost to the program. I want to make sure that we get to that SEC Championship.
Question: Is there a certain game on USC’s 2011 schedule that you look at and say, I can’t wait to play against those guys?
Cooper: UGA. The University of Georgia, because I’ve got to come home. All my people have got to be here to watch the game. That’s the one I’m looking forward to, and Arkansas too.
Question: How sweet is it going to be for you to have the opportunity to play against Georgia every year that you’re at South Carolina?
Cooper: It’ll feel good. As long as we beat them, it’ll feel great. As long as we beat them, I’m happy.
Question: Being from Georgia, how familiar are you with the intensity of the rivalry between South Carolina and Clemson?
Cooper: Oh, that’s a real big rivalry. They beat Clemson last year, so I just want to keep it going.
Question: Do you have any message that you’d like to pass on to Gamecock fans before you officially arrive on campus?
Cooper: #18, just watch out for me.
Just for fun…
Favorite musician? Jay-Z
Favorite actress? Megan Good
Hidden talent? I can dance
Favorite pro football team? New York Giants
Favorite overall athlete? Sean Taylor