COLUMBUS, Ohio — Defensive lineman Ernest Cooper of Martin High School in Arlington, Texas can be described as a ‘go-getter’, ‘hard-worker’, and ‘all-around guy’ with over 20 offers to prove it, including Ohio State football.
Yet, a big factor in his decision will not be the success of the football program, but the opportunities and academics the university will provide.
“(My parents) told me to take my time,” Cooper told cleveland.com’s Kayla Harvey. “They’re not going to influence it at all, it’s going to be my decision and one of the most selfish decisions you can make in life because it’s going to be about you and your next four years.”
Cooper was offered by defensive line coach Larry Johnson during a phone call in May. With coaches able to contact recruits directly starting on Sept. 1, daily conversations between the two has become a priority.
“Like it is with any college, it is a blessing,” Cooper said. “I think it shows how hard I was working and just as easy as you can get offered it can be taken away so you got to keep working hard. [Johnson is] a great guy and I know he’s about business. I’ve seen the people that he has coached and the products he’s produced. I think he can definitely make my game elevate to the next level. You can look at the Bosa brothers, coach Larry Johnson coached them. You can see how crazy they play on the field.”
Nick and Joey Bosa are among the six defensive linemen that Johnson has developed into first-round draft picks. His most recent is Chase Young, who was the No. 2 pick last spring by Washington. Young was one of 10 Buckeyes taken in the draft, which tied for second most (with Michigan) behind LSU’s 14. Ohio State has an NCAA-best 141 draft picks since 2000 and its 31 first-round picks are tied with Alabama for the top spot.
As the nation’s No. 105 player and No. 6 strongside defensive end, Johnson acknowledges OSU’s ability to develop high-level players. His home-state is a hotbed for talent and a place the Buckeyes are spending a large amount of time in this cycle, with 18 players so far earning offers.
“Here in Texas, Ohio State is a final four competitor,” Cooper said. “So they’re definitely a team that’s gonna be up for the championship every other year and they usually always have a great team.”
The extended recruiting dead period has limited his ability to see other campuses, having only visited Texas. Which is why he plans to take his time. He knows what he’s looking for and is more worried about seeing places in person.
“What I’m looking for in a school is a great education,” Cooper said. “You don’t have to have a crazy good football program, just a decent program. How many people are you graduating with undergrad and master’s programs?”
Cooper plans to establish connections until his senior year and narrow down his choices from there.
“Once the pandemic slows down I’m going to start creeping my way out the house and making some visits,” Cooper said. “Probably starting in-state at first and then working my way outward. I’m just trying to find out who values me the most and who’s going to give me the best education, not only to be successful at football but successful in life.”
OSU recruits hint at a likened HBCU route
Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders became the new head football coach of Jackson State, a historically black university in Jackson, Miss., on Sunday. In his announcement, Sanders touched on tradition, history and community, and Ohio State 2022 defensive end target Khurtiss Perry, noticed on Twitter.
The nation’s No. 58 player and No. 6 defensive tackle has 20 offers from schools including Alabama, Auburn, Louisiana State University, Penn State, and Florida.
Armani Winfield, an Ohio State 2022 wide receiver target, took to social media with a similar, hushed tweet referencing HBCUs in May. Winfield has 31 offers, including Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Baylor and Florida.
In May 2016, the NFL launched Strength of HBCUs, Impacting Pro Football since 1948, a partnership with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference, two HBCU conferences. The initiative works to celebrate history, provide access to the business of sports through workshops and internships, and to increase opportunities for students who attend historically black institutions.
Currently, 29 players on active NFL rosters and practice squads are products of HBCUs. Among the most famous such players are Jerry Rice of Mississippi Valley State and Walter Payton of Jackson State.
Watch OSU commit Donovan Jackson in NBC’s “Road to the Dome” series
New Ohio State face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Ohio State-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection. A 3-pack is available on Fanatics for $29.99.
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