Remember how good and explosive and dynamic and unstoppable Sammy Watkins was last year at Clemson? Well, Amari Cooper looks just as good, just as explosive, just as dynamic and just as unstoppable this year at Alabama.
Cooper has 43 catches, 655 yards and five touchdowns through four games. He had 45 catches, 736 yards and four touchdowns all of last season.
“I don’t think it’s a straight-up comparison (between Cooper and Watkins), but there are a lot of parallels,” Yahoo! Sports football writer Eric Edholm said on The MoJo Show. “They have very similar sizes: 6-1, 210. Both guys can catch the ball close to the line of scrimmage and take it a long way. Not all receivers can do that. They also can go vertical, so (there’s) pretty good diversity to their games. Watkins does a few more things – (like return kicks), that sort of thing – and maybe Clemson used him just a shade more creatively than Bama does with Cooper.”
Maybe, but Cooper still has 10+ catches in three of his four games this year. He’s also yet to be held under 130 yards.
Heck, he had 10 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-21 win over Florida last weekend. Not all of that came against Vernon Hargreaves, who is considered one of the best shutdown corners in college football, but a lot of it did.
“He won most of the battles,” Edholm said of Cooper. “He won more battles than he lost against him. That was impressive. That was one of the first big true tests this season that he’s faced. It kind of cements his spot right now as probably one of the seven or eight best prospects heading into next year’s draft if he does make himself eligible.”
While Cooper is making big plays through the air, another SEC team, Arkansas, is dismantling teams on the ground. The Razorbacks are averaging 324.5 rushing yards per game – eighth-best in the country.
It’s almost like Bret Bielema is still at Wisconsin.
“It was like Offensive Line U at Wisconsin, so we’re not ready to go to that,” Edholm said. “To have such mass up front, that’s what they’re trying to do is be a straight-ahead football team. They’ll take three-and-a-half, four yards a clip on the ground because guess what? First down, first down, first down. They’ve got two running backs (Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams) who can lay the wood as well. They use tight ends. So heavy sets upfront. It’s fun to watch. It’s old school.”
Arkansas (3-1, 0-1), which has won three straight games, ran the ball on 30 straight plays in a 49-28 win over Texas Tech on Sept. 13.
“Thirty straight runs? Are you kidding me?” Edholm asked. “They’ve gotten back to their roots a little bit. Last year was such a disaster. I think they’re the kind of team that’s going to scare A&M. They’re going to scare some LSU-type teams. They’re maybe a little bit better than people are giving them credit for.”