Our "Better Know a Buckeye" series continues with its third installment. We profile Jonathon Cooper, one of the crown jewels of Ohio State's 2016 recruiting class. 247sports' evaluators rate Cooper as a five-star prospect (composite: four-star) and Ohio State's second best overall prospect behind Nick Bosa.
- Size: 6-2.5/234
- Position: WDE
- (Hometown) School: Columbus, OH (Gahanna Lincoln)
- 247 Composite: ★★★★
- National Ranking: 32
- Position Ranking: 3 (WDE)
- State Ranking: 2 (OH)
Cooper had a meteoric rise starting in 2014. Do not mistake Gahanna Lincoln for a high school football talent factory. The school is overshadowed by the two Pickerington schools within its own Ohio Division of the Ohio Capital Conference. The school had not produced a football signee in the Rivals era before Cooper signed with Ohio State. The last alumnus to sign with Ohio State on a football scholarship was Don Davis in 1989. Cooper will leave quite the legacy at Gahanna Lincoln as he starts his career at Ohio State.
This profile proceeds in the usual fashion. I first discuss his excellent summer camp circuit in 2014, which led to the coveted Ohio State offer. I then discuss the reasons for his November 14, 2014 commitment. I proceed with a scouting report on Cooper, who is already enrolled at Ohio State. I conclude with a projection of whether Cooper is a redshirt and some highlight film for the reader to watch at the end of the feature.
Let the previous tidbit about Jonathon Cooper's legacy underscore his rise from obscurity at Gahanna Lincoln. The high school does not produce a lot of football talent and is overshadowed by the two Pickerington schools in its own division.
More Jonathon Cooper at 11W
The Lincoln Golden Lions finished a 3-7 season in 2013 when Cooper began to hit the camp circuit early in 2014. It started with the Best of the Midwest Combine in February. Cooper had a great performance at that Indianapolis combine. 247's recap pegged Cooper as the best 2016 defensive line prospect in attendance and placed him on the Best of the Midwest All-Combine Team.
Illinois immediately rewarded Cooper for his performance with a scholarship offer, his first. Cooper expressed excitement over the offer and for the university's engineering program, but had no timetable for an early decision.
Cooper picked up more interest through the spring, but not necessarily more offers. Kentucky's scholarship offer came two days after the Illinois offer. Cooper took several unofficial visits to programs like Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio State before the end of his sophomore year. Only Indiana stepped forward with another offer at the end of May.
The end of the school year allowed Cooper to invest more time in the camp circuit. He had stays at Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Tennessee all before he participated in Ohio State's dedicated Friday Night Lights event on July 25, 2014.
The visit to Friday Nights Lights proved important. Ohio State offered him that night. Cooper was understandably elated and even surprised.
"I was kind of surprised, I mean I knew I did a really good job at the camp. Overall I'm just really excited to get an offered."
Cooper did not commit on the spot, but no one anticipated a lot of intrigue to follow for the duration of his recruitment. Notre Dame offered in mid-September. He even visited in October for Notre Dame's game against Stanford. Cooper took two visits to Ohio State around this Notre Dame excursion, which were the contests against Virginia Tech and Rutgers.
Cooper had seen enough come November that year when he made his decision.
Jonathon Cooper became the third member of Ohio State's 2016 recruiting class when recruiting services announced his pledge to Ohio State on November 14, 2014.
Cooper had actually committed to Ohio State at the Rutgers game on October 18. Secrets, however, are hard to keep.
Cooper realized he wanted to play for Ohio State after the Virginia Tech game, in which he was wowed by the overall atmosphere of that contest. However, he kept his recruitment idle while his Gahanna Lincoln team focused on a run toward the playoffs. The news leaked less than a week after division foe Pickerington Central bounced Lincoln from the first round of the playoffs.
WHERE HE EXCELS
Cooper is an exciting prospect that was at one point a composite five-star prospect. He lost that fifth star in 247's final composite rankings, but that does not detract from Cooper's potential at Ohio State. He could be a great one at Ohio State.
Analysts gush over how explosive Cooper is off the edge. It's more than just "speed" too, though Cooper has that feature to his credit too. Cooper uses a high motor, an explosive first step, and an innate knowledge of hand-fighting with a blocker to get off his blocks and disrupt pass plays. Watch him take on Michigan signee Michael Onwenu at The Opening last summer.
These characteristics come first in most descriptions of Jonathon Cooper, but Cooper is capable in space. He's an agile end prospect who has the ability to play some linebacker (and probably will if he makes it to the NFL). Running backs will find it difficult to juke him one-on-one.
MUST WORK ON
Cooper has the ability to play in space. He can drop into coverage and move laterally to stop running backs for minimal to no gain. However, he does not have a lot of experience in this regard. This might constitute the steepest learning curve for Cooper before he sees the field.
Analysts have also credited Cooper for making strides in the weight room. He was around 215 pounds as a sophomore when he got the Illinois offer with the idea he would add more good weight. He has, but his strength is an issue right now. This is why he's helped himself by enrolling early to take part in winter conditioning drills.
Cooper is one of a handful of early enrollees, which could only help him see the field. However, that's no guarantee. Jashon Cornell enrolled early last year and also redshirted. Ohio State has a lot of talent returning at that weakside defensive end rotation. Still, I'll make a bold projection that Cooper sees some light duty as a reserve in 2016 if the hype squares with reality during fall camp.