Alabama in the Pros

Amari Cooper turning heads at minicamp; receives praise from QB Derek Carr

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

He’s about to enter his fourth NFL season with the Oakland Raiders, but quarterback Derek Carr knew exactly what the franchise was getting when it selected wide receiver Amari Cooper in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Cooper, a native of Miami, Fla., was smooth throughout a three-year career (2012-14) at the University of Alabama. He would re-write the school’s record book in receiving, amassing 228 receptions for 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns. His single-season mark of 1,727 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns on 124 catches in 2014, earned him unanimous All-American honors, the Fred Biletnikoff Award and Southeastern Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year award.

After posting two 1,000-yard seasons in 2015 and 2016, the Raiders are expecting even more from the former BCS national champion and he’s ready to deliver. According to a report from Micahel Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Cooper turned heads during Oakland’s start of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.

Derek Carr hooked up with his prized target on two separate occasions, including one for a score as Cooper burned veteran cornerback Sean Smith.

“Seeing him do it out here, we were just laughing, man,” Carr said via Gehlken after practice. “The guy has been going off all offseason. We were just laughing about how impressed we are.”

Reports have surfaced through camp on Cooper adding weight to his 6-foot-1 frame.

He became the first rookie receiver to turn in a 1,000-yard season in Raiders’ history in 2015, and the first receiver to a 1,000-yard year overall since Randy Moss in 2005. Following his two Pro Bowl appearances, Carr expects the third-year target to really turn it loose on defensive backs.

“That dog in him is coming out,” Carr said. “That thing you saw at Alabama where he’d just take games over. Not to say that he hasn’t because he has, but I think it’s not just becoming a thing of, ‘What game is it going to be?’ It’s becoming a thing of, ‘That’s who he is.’ (Defensive backs) better know that he’s really taking it serious, that he’s trying to go attack them this year. He’s not going to let them come to him this year. That just comes with age.”

The scary thing about Cooper is that he’s only going to get better.

He was a starter on Alabama’s 2012 national title team at 18 years old. His level of comfort on the field took off immediately, as he brought in 59 receptions for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns that season. With him turning 23 on Saturday, Oakland has years of dominance on the horizon.

Stephen M. Smith is a managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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