Days to Kickoff: 77
As our 100 Days to Kickoff series rolls on, this week we’ll be taking a look at players you haven’t seen before, but will want to know about going into the 2017 season. All of these players come into the season with little to no experience at the college level, but tons of potential to make an impact on the field this fall for the Yellow Jackets.
C Kenny Cooper | Sophomore | 6-3, 307 lbs. | Calhoun, GA
Sean Bedford. Jay Finch. Freddie Burden. These three guys have been the center in Paul Johnson’s offense for every year except for 2008. It has been the definition of consistency. And what is even more mindblowing is that every time on of them graduated and moved on from the Flats, the next one was ready to step right in and play at the same level. From year to year, even though they don’t get quite the recognition of a Shaq Mason or Omoregie Uzzi, these three guys have been the centerpiece (pun intended) of Tech’s offensive successes.
For a while, most people though that Andrew Marshall would be the next one in line, but with all of the changes on the offensive line this past season, Marshall ended up getting moved out to tackle, where he has been pretty successful when not injured. That move leaves Kenny Cooper as the next man up. Now Cooper isn’t the traditional idea of a “newbie,” as he got plenty of playing time last year (including starting at center in the Tax Slayer Bowl), but out of our categories, I though that’s where he fit best.
As I alluded to earlier, Cooper got the opportunity to fill in for the injured Freddie Burden during Tech’s Tax Slayer Bowl match with Kentucky. Now, a lot of times, when the center gets hurt and you have to call on a back-up, there are concerns about how they’ll do, specifically with the initial exchange with the quarterback. During the game, that didn’t seem to be an issue at all.
In addition to that, Cooper more than held his own against Kentucky’s defense. The person who saw the greatest fruits of his labor was B-back Dedrick Mills who had a career day, rushing for 169 yards and a touchdown.
Just as we always have, Georgia Tech is going to have a good center this year. He’s already shown off a little of what he could do as a freshman, but now with a full year under his belt, it will be a lot of fun to see what Kenny Cooper can do.
Edit: I realize now that I’ve made an error. I previously stated that Cooper started the TaxSlayer Bowl against Kentucky, when in actuality, he started the game against Virginia Tech earlier in the season (which in my mind is equally as impressive since he didn’t even have Justin Thomas to work with in that game).