‘Amazing performance’… CB Omarion Cooper shines with another challenge for Miami.

‘Amazing performance’… CB Omarion Cooper shines with another challenge for Miami.

During Florida State’s spirited win over Miami on Saturday 31-28, a real new player appeared on the defensive backcourt to start his first-ever game as Seminole.

Amarion Cooper made sure to make his mark on the storied rivalry, making four pass deflections, two tackles and a first-quarter interception in the process. Cooper’s pick was the game’s first spin on either side and helped shift the momentum in favor of FSU early on the road to a 17-0 lead.

“I played a good first game – it’s an amazing performance for that young man. He keeps growing,” said FA coach Mike Norville. “We felt it was the right time. There are a lot of ideas going around with him, but when you get the chance, you have to take the chance. He definitely did that throughout the match.”

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Marcus Woodson, the FA support team’s defense coach, was also touched by what he told the freshman before his first start in the historic rivalry between the ‘Noles and’ Canes.

“Go out and play. Go out and have fun,” Woodson said. “He was a well-prepared kid. He showed up every day with the right behaviour. He’s a movie addict. He studies the opponent. He studies the game plan we give our players. So it came as no surprise to me as a coach, the way he was performing.”

While he knew Cooper had the talent to immediately play at the college level, Woodson said he didn’t know how quickly the 6-foot-1, 186-pound rib could develop.

“It’s everything we expected it to be,” Woodson said. “And to be honest, he has exceeded some of our expectations as well. Just by the time he met those expectations early on. He’s an exceptional kid. He has the right attitude, and that’s what we look for in the hiring process. He’s more than talent.”

“It’s a character assessment we do here with Coach Norville and we’re very proud of him. So we knew we had the right guy on the day that NLI sent in.”

Cooper’s interception came just five minutes into the game and only on the Hurricanes’ fifth attack. Tyler Van Dyck, the Miami quarterback who rides an oncoming hot streak, was cooled early on when Cooper rode a high, deep 40-yard throw down the field.

“It was because of the way I practiced [last] week,” Cooper said of the play. So the coaches gave me the opportunity. “

The former Lehigh Acres star broke one of the reasons he was able to climb the FSU depth chart so early in his career.

“Coming from high school, the physical ability was there,” Cooper said. “It’s always been the mindset going into college. Your mind has to be sharp on everything. That’s all there is to it—the mindset.”

One of the many impressive skills the new student has already demonstrated is the ability to locate a soccer ball in the air and pinpoint a high point like a wide receiver.

He did that at his interception on Saturday and at his interception in Clemson a few weeks ago.

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This is a natural gift, Woodson said, that Cooper has also worked on refining.

“You can work as a coach, but then some players have the talent of football. And he has that,” Woodson said. “You can do ball drills until your face is blue as a coach. But if the kid doesn’t have it – if they don’t work with it – they won’t play when they do. Put it back in position to make it as he did.”

It wasn’t just a solo play where Cooper flashed, too. Woodson said he has been a “steady” and “trustworthy” player during the 2021 season.

“That’s the only thing he has – the competitive advantage,” Woodson said. “The thing we didn’t know was the piece of mind, insofar as he could quickly process what we’re doing and understand the information we’re giving him from an opponent’s point of view as well.

“He came and showed us that he is trustworthy. We had no hesitation when it came to making the decision to start it.”

FSU didn’t have a single defensive linebacker, but two freshmen started on the defensive backcourt on Saturday. Teammate Kevin Knowles has received heavy time in all 10 competitions this season and has started five of the past six games at Nickelback.

“These two new students are different from most of the freshmen,” Woodson said. “They are very mature. So they become professional early in the process. They trust the process, they know the work it takes to be ready in the moment. For us as employees, we have complete confidence in these guys. That’s why two of the 11 are playing in The first match.”

Going forward, the staff certainly looks comfortable relying on Cooper in key positions the rest of the season.

“It’s not a big moment for him,” Woodson said. “If he plays where we played on Saturday against Miami, I feel good that he’ll face Boston College on the road.”

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Talk about this story with other Florida football fans at the Tribal Council

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