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Mookie Cooper ruled ineligible, intriguing situation in Buckeyes secondary

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Ohio State commit Mookie Cooper hoped he would get a chance to play during his senior season. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football Recruiting

Mookie Cooper ruled ineligible, intriguing situation in Buckeyes secondary

Stay in touch or be left out because Ohio State recruiting is a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week obsession. What’s the latest news as the Buckeyes build for the future? Get that and more Sunday through Thursday on Lettermen Row. Tuesday’s notebook checks in on the latest with Buckeyes commitment Mookie Cooper, how Ohio State projects the future in recruiting and introduces a young defensive end from Cleveland.

Mookie Cooper focused on Ohio State after ruled ineligible

The ruling that Mookie Cooper feared was coming finally did: The Buckeyes 4-star wide receiver commit has been ruled ineligible by the state of Missouri following his off-season transfer to Pattonville Senior (St. Louis) High School.

“Yeah, they ruled me ineligible,” Cooper told Lettermen Row. “I will not be playing my senior season. My old school said the transfer was just for athletic reasons.”

No matter the reasons for the transfers — in this case, it was for the chance to graduate early and subsequently enroll early at Ohio State — Cooper’s case is similar to a number of them around the country right now. Private schools like Trinity Catholic, the powerhouse football program Cooper left, usually have a different class-load requirement for graduation and have not been helpful for players in his position. Some schools, like Providence Day in Charlotte (N.C.), have begun to allow its students to make that move, which is why Jacolbe Cowan will be the first player in his school’s history to graduate early.

That doesn’t matter now for Cooper, though, and will be ineligible this fall. Rather than lamenting the outcome as a measure of bad luck, the 5-foot-9, 195-pound Cooper intends to take the negativity and turn it on its head: He’s going to be ready for Ohio State in January.

“Ohio State has told me I’m still a Buckeye and nothing has changed for them,” he said. “They want to make sure I’m getting my work in, though, and told me that they can’t wait for me to get there. I mean, it’s crazy but I’m just going to work. I’ll be working out five days a week in different forms. I just left a workout now.”

Without a chance to play for his high school team, Cooper has been focused on watching the Buckeyes and learning their offense from afar. He’s been impressed by what he’s seen to this point and believes he can contribute right away as a freshman.

“I can see that right now there’s no player there like me with my style of play,” he said. “And I think they’re excited to have me there and see me take off with the offense. It’s already the best offense in the country.”

Cooper has talked to Ohio State coaches about his role, a role that will include him lined up in the backfield, in the slot and out wide at times.

“I’ve played running back, back in my freshman year,” he said. “They have mentioned me coming out of the backfield on jet sweeps or motioning into it at times. I feel more comfortable at slot receiver now, but whatever I’m asked to do it won’t be a problem.”

For a young man who’s had his final year of high school football taken from him, Cooper is taking everything in stride. He’ll return to Ohio State for the game against Wisconsin next week and is just trying to remain optimistic about the future.

“I think about this every day, and like I said, it’s crazy,” he said. “But how I see it? It worked out for the best.”

Ryan Day addresses Ohio State needs at defensive back

After adding cornerback Ryan Watts to the Buckeyes class of 2020, it would be fair to think that Ohio State is finished recruiting the defensive back position in this cycle.

Watts gives the Buckeyes five defensive backs committed — if Muskegon (Mich.) star Cameron Martinez is counted in that group. But with Damon Arnette and Jordan Fuller running out of eligibility, and the chances of Jeff Okudah and Shaun Wade leaving early for the NFL after this season being relatively high, Ohio State just doesn’t completely know what will happen next.

Yes, there are players like Cameron Brown, Sevyn Banks and Josh Proctor waiting in the wings. But beyond that group and Marcus Williamson, there is not experience coming back in the secondary for the Buckeyes next season. That’s why it’s been vital for Ohio State to not just replenish the position, but to restock it with ready-to-go talents like Clark Phillips, Lathan Ransom, Ryan Watts, Lejond Cavazos and Martinez.

“I think when you’re looking to recruit somebody, typically you look at them like, ‘Hey, this is a guy that we project that can come in and make a difference right away. He’s further along in his process,'” Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said on Monday. “So we have those conversations.

“You’ve got to come in here ready to play.”

Fortunately for Day, more and more kids are doing just that as national combines, camps and private trainers are creating more college-ready players than ever before.

“I do think guys are more and more ready to come play,” he said. “I think maybe physically they’re more ready [with] more exposure to different things. But I do think now more than ever, guys are more ready to play. The new four-game rule, it’s kind of forcing guys in there to play a little bit.

“They have this opportunity to get out there and prove themselves, and then they can kind of grow from there and build from there, and I guess it’s giving them an opportunity to prove that they can play right away and that they do deserve reps. I think it’s a combination of those two things.”

Cleveland-area sophomore Trey Bixby standing out

It’s early in his career, but there’s a young Ohio defensive end worth paying attention to developing at Lakewood St. Edward High School.

Trey Bixby is a 6-foot-4, 230-pound sophomore for the Eagles, and though he’s set up in Northeast Ohio now, he’s a well-traveled youngster who’s been all over the country up until now.

“I actually moved a lot as a kid and just moved here to Ohio right after eighth grade,” Bixby told Lettermen Row. “I was born in Minnesota, but most of my youth football years were in Arizona. Then, for middle school we lived in Wisconsin before my mom’s job moved us to Ohio. Most of my friends and former teammates are in Chandler, Ariz. and that area.”

All that moving has made Bixby long for a chance to call one place home, and that’s what he’s doing in Ohio.

“My mom had a chance to move to Cleveland that she couldn’t pass up,” he said. “There’s a zero-percent chance we move again. I will graduate from St. Ed’s. That’s been a family decision from Day One, and since my mom is in her dream role now too, we plan on my brother also going to St. Ed’s.”

That means there’s a chance for the Buckeyes to check out Bixby, who has picked up offers from Akron and Cincinnati, with the Bearcats offering this past summer at a one-day recruiting camp. He did not get a chance to camp at Ohio State but is hoping for some contact from Ryan Day’s program soon, though he may not even know if the Buckeyes did reach out to his coach at this point.

“I’ve gotten a lot of new schools following me lately, but no real contact yet cause of contact rules,” the sophomore lineman said. “My coaches have said they’ve taken calls from more coaches lately, but they’ve kind of kept the details from me. I’m just trying to stay focused on the season and winning another title right now.

“I would love to make a visit to Ohio State for a game, though. I haven’t heard anything from the staff on any game-day invites or anything. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get down there with my schedule this summer. My dad and I tried to shuffle some things around, but it never worked out timing-wise. Being just a sophomore, we thought I could likely add it to my list this next offseason.”

Need more Ohio State recruiting #Stuff? Join the conversation below in the comments and sign up for Scarlet Sunrise, Lettermen Row’s morning newsletter that will get your day started with all the important Ohio State news you need to know. Prefer video? Follow Buckeyes football on YouTube with Lettermen Row. You can also get your recruiting fix by subscribing to Talking Stuff: The Ohio State Recruiting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher.. 


Birm is Lettermen Row's Director of Recruiting and the site's primary Ohio State sports photographer. A Toledo, Ohio native, Jeremy has been in similar roles for and and has been covering the Buckeyes for seven years.

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