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Early enrollment could be key springboard for Mookie Cooper

Mookie Cooper-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State freshman Mookie Cooper has a chance to make a mark in a hurry for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Early enrollment could be key springboard for Mookie Cooper

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and a true freshman who could have a big spring — like Mookie Cooper? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Maybe it’s the fact that he’s surrounded by so many highly-rated recruits in one of the nation’s best classes. Maybe it’s because he didn’t get a chance to play football at all last season. Or perhaps it’s just that he’s a little shorter than the wide receivers Ohio State usually signs and he’s lumped in with an outrageously talented group of new freshmen just as his position.

Whatever it is, there’s no reason at all to be overlooking Mookie Cooper. And considering his unique set of skills and the need the Buckeyes have at the H-back position, there’s a real chance he could emerge as a factor for the offense right away.

There was plenty of attention paid on Wednesday to the big names as Ohio State introduced its 14 early enrollees on the field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Five-star offensive tackle Paris Johnson drew a crowd to talk about his chances of making history as a first-year starter, top-rated wide receiver Julian Fleming detailed his early transition to college life and a couple cornerbacks were peppered about the chance to play for Kerry Coombs.

Cooper certainly had his share of the spotlight. But it could easily grow as he channels his frustration from sitting out last year into the offseason workouts that could catapult him into the rotation in a role that Ohio State struggled a bit to fill a season ago.

“When we look at the best slot receivers, there’s an edge and toughness in there,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “There’s an edge there, a toughness. They have to catch the ball in the middle. Most of their work is inside the hashes dealing with safeties and linebackers. And you’ll take hits in there. You have to be tough.

Mookie Cooper-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State wide receiver Mookie Cooper is ready to make a splash. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“If he’s going to motion in the backfield, do some of those things we have with Parris [Campbell] and those guys, we toss it to them on speed sweeps or hand it to them on different things, he’s going to have to be a little bit like a running back as well for reverses and those type of things.”

Cooper can certainly handle that as a player who was originally projected by some analysts as a running back at the college level. And after taking similar guys from that mold and turning Curtis Samuel and Campbell into stars at the H-back spot, Cooper is going to have a chance to do the same thing as Ohio State goes through a bit of a remodel at the skill positions.

The Buckeyes are still waiting for word on the appeal for a sixth season for C.J. Saunders, and that would obviously add depth and a veteran presence if the captain is cleared to return. But Saunders probably would take on more of the K.J. Hill-type role as a route technician with reliable hands as a receiving threat, while Cooper could take on some responsibilities as a rusher — which might be an answer to the current uncertainty about replacing J.K. Dobbins in the backfield.

Either way, Cooper is going to have an opportunity to contribute early. And arriving in time for winter workouts and spring ball could be a meaningful head start on his career.

” I love it — that’s what I’ve been doing since high school, so I feel like I’m just stepping into the same thing, just on a bigger platform,” Cooper said. “Everybody is different, but I just know my attitude coming in here, the workouts and everything, they’re hard.

“I just know where I’m trying to get with this program and where I’m trying to get playing here. So I just feel like if I just keep that in my head and keep working until what I want to get, then I’ll get it.”

That process is already underway for Mookie Cooper. And he’s already an early name to remember for the spring game in April.

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Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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