If you ask the average Ohio State football fan what they’re looking forward to seeing this season, they likely won’t get far before mentioning defensive ends Nick Bosa and Chase Young.
Those are certainly understandable answers. Bosa is the reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, and Young came in last season as a 5-star signee with huge hype and equal expectations. Together, the two of them should be dynamic.
They aren’t the only former 5-star defensive ends on the roster, however. They are also joined by junior Jonathon Cooper, who isn’t getting nearly the attention that his teammates have received this spring.
Cooper played in every game last season for the Buckeyes, playing on special teams and getting action on defense here and there. Given the players he played behind last season, as well as the two he is competing with this spring, it would seem easy enough for Cooper to feel like he’s been overlooked.
He’s not worried about it, though.
“I don’t feel like I’m overlooked,” he said. “I know Chase and Nick, and they’re both amazing players. I just like to think I’m an amazing player too. I wish nothing but the best for those guys. I know that Chase has a lot of hype around him and Nick Bosa has a lot of hype around him. I would like to think that I have a lot of hype around me too, but it’s okay, it’s going to come.”
Cooper has bigger things to worry about, specifically making sure the Rushmen don’t take a step back from where they were a year ago.
“I don’t really pay attention to it or worry about it,” he said. “I just know that we’ve all got to work together to make the Rushmen even better. I don’t feel like I’m overlooked. I think all of us three together are working just as hard.”
Cooper has played in a total of 20 games in his career and has compiled 21 tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks. Each of his first two years were spent watching veterans Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, and Jalyn Holmes command the bulk of the reps, along with Nick Bosa.
Now that he is slated for a role in the four-man rotation at defensive end, he is excited about what is to come. Cooper doesn’t consider his first two seasons “waiting his turn” because he was fighting to see the field in every practice. Considering the talent the Buckeyes already had at the position, however, there were only so many snaps to go around.
“I would say I was working as hard as I could just to be a part of those guys,” Cooper said. “I wouldn’t say ‘waiting my turn,’ but I would say it’s my turn to step up. Of course I came in here thinking that I want to play and support the team and help in any way I can. Coming in a 5-star, five stars, I don’t really think that means too much. I’m just giving it all I’ve got.”
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson saw the potential in Cooper throughout recruiting. He worked him out at camps and saw what Cooper could do. He is one of the most athletic defensive ends in the nation and he is putting the rest of his game together in preparation for 2018.
“I think Jonathon Cooper brings a lot to the plate,” Johnson said. “I’m really pleased with where he’s at right now. He’s gotten a chance to get on the field and play special teams, but he’s got a chance to make an impact at the defensive end position. He’s had a really great winter. Did a great job in the weight room. Gotten stronger. Gotten bigger. And this is his moment right now, it really is. He’s doing everything he can to make sure he grabs it.”
Cooper added about 20 pounds in the offseason in preparation for an every-down role. He was always known as a talented pass rusher, but if he is going to be part of the rotation this season, he’s going to have to be able to defend every kind of play that comes his way.
Nick Bosa can’t wait to see what Jonathon Cooper does in 2018.
“It’s definitely his year,” Bosa said. “He’s a great player and people tend to overlook him a little bit, but he’s going to be a super-big part of our D-line this year, so I’m excited.”
And while Buckeye fans already know what they are expecting from Nick Bosa and Chase Young, what should they expect from Cooper when he’s out there?
“They’re going to see a very fast edge rusher,” Cooper said. “A very powerful dude that goes hard with relentless effort.”