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October 24, 2012A lot has changed for Amari Cooper since he first put on a uniform for the University of Alabama and caught one pass for 15 yards in his debut against Michigan.
The Crimson Tide freshman has since overcome a minor foot injury, faced Southeastern Conference competition for the first time, and even put his name in the UA record books. But as Cooper continues to face the challenging series of firsts that confront any freshman who finds immediate playing time in the SEC, he has become increasingly dangerous presence in the UA offense.
Cooper's 162 receiving yards against Tennessee last week set a new mark for UA freshmen, and he's made 19 catches over his last three games.
"No surprise. He just keeps getting better and better every week," said quarterback AJ McCarron. "He's a very explosive player for us. We just got to keep getting him the ball and let him make plays for us."
UA coach Nick Saban indicated that injuries to DeAndrew White and Chris Black have placed UA's younger receivers in a more difficult situation, but said Cooper and fellow freshman Cyrus Jones have responded to that well.
"We've had a couple of freshmen who have worked hard and made a significant contribution," Saban said. "Both of those guys have a tremendous amount of potential, and they have been productive in whatever we've asked them to do."
Cooper leads the team in all receiving categories with 28 catches, 425 yards and five touchdowns. His season high for receptions came against Ole Miss (eight).
"He's been making big plays for us and that's what we need down the field," said veteran receiver Kevin Norwood. "He comes out to practice every week and practices hard. AJ has a lot of confidence in him."
McCarron has distributed the ball in every direction this season. Five players have at least 10 receptions, eight have at least seven. But of late, none have been more productive than Cooper.
"He can be as great as he wants to be," said cornerback Dee Milliner. "... He does a lot of things you really don't see freshmen do with his speed, his hands, and his quickness that he got. He can be one of the great receivers in years to come."
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.