Posted: 9:02 p.m. Thursday, April 25, 2013
Jonathan Cooper became the first Tar Heel selected in the 2012 NFL draft when he was picked
Cooper arrived in Chapel Hill at a time when Butch Davis was desperate to salvage an understaffed and underperforming offensive line, and earned a starting job before play began his redshirt freshman season. Although an ankle injury limited his performance that year, by his sophomore season he was the anchor to the first decent offensive line senior quarterback T.J. Yates had seen in his college career. (We also learned that season that Cooper was not destined to play center after a disastrous showing against LSU.) Cooper finished the year a second team All-ACC, and stepped up big as a junior. He's a big reason why sophomore QB Bryn Renner didn't have a pass hit the ground in his first start and freshman running back Giovani Bernard finished third in the ACC in rushing that year.
Coming into his senior year and the third head coach of his college career, Cooper cold have easily gone astray in learning a radically different offense. Instead he was one of the team's leaders, ensuring Renner was the least-sacked quarterback in the ACC and Bernard the rushing leader. In fact, it's hard to find a wire photo where he isn't congratulating Bernard in the end zone, no matter what the length of the run the Florida tailback had just galloped. As a result, Cooper spent the season garnering pretty much every conceivable accolade, as he was named All-ACC, then All-American by the AP and the AFCA, and took home the Jacobs blocking trophy.
Cooper becomes the first non-tight end offensive lineman from Chapel Hill drafted since tackle Garrett Reynolds in 2009. I expect a long career in the pros from him. For a NFL prospective on him, check out SBNation's draft profile.