Learning by mentoring: Sam Cooper says working with newcomers has helped him elevate his game

'I want to make every play I can make for the team, whatever those numbers may be'

Sam Cooper catches a pass in the first quarter against Maryland

Photo by Mark Crammer

Sam Cooper catches a pass in the first quarter against Maryland

Darrell Smith is a blocking machine.

Stanton Seckinger is a long, rangy converted wide receiver with excellent ball skills who is still learning the fundamentals of blocking from the tight end position.

Jay Jay McCullough and Jordan Leggett are promising newcomers, still dealing with volumes of information and adjusting to the speed of the game.

Sam Cooper is the new rock - or at least that's what he's working his way toward becoming.

Over the past two seasons under Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, Dwayne Allen and Brandon Ford combined for 90 receptions and 16 touchdown catches.

Cooper, a rising redshirt junior entering his fourth season in the program, has no idea if he'll post similar numbers this season. He's the most experienced mainstay in the five-man crew, with solid ability as blocker and improving skills as a pass-catcher.

He knows that for the Tigers to avoid a drop-off at the tight end position, he has to take all phases of his game to a higher level.

"I'm just trying to be a student of the game," said Cooper after the Tigers' first full-scale scrimmage last week. "I've had two great role models in Dwayne Allen and Brandon Ford. I'm spending time in the film room, learning from them. All their confidence on the field came from preparation."

Cooper said he's working on all phases of his game.

"There are always a million things you can do better," he said. "It's like things, like make sure of every single step in your footwork...I've been working on my ball-skills, catching the ball, watching the ball in.

"I want to make every play I can make for the team, whatever those numbers may be."

In mentoring younger teammates like Leggett and McCollough, Cooper says he finds himself growing in his own understanding of the game.

"It's been fun mentoring the younger guys, but at the same time, they're helping me," he said. "It's definitely a give-and-take relationship. We've got Jordan who's come straight in out of high school, and helping him out helps me also. Helping teach him blocking assignments helms me to understand them better."

At this stage of his career, Cooper said his strength is "point-of-attack" football.

"I'm pretty solid there," he said.

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