NCF Nation: Graig Cooper

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 4, 2011
The official list for the NFL combine has been released. A total of 48 players from the ACC have been invited to audition for the NFL from February 23 – March 1. When categorized by school, it's somewhat of a reality check to see how many of the best players in the conference are moving on, and which programs will take the biggest hit. It's impossible not to wonder how good North Carolina could have been had all of the following players remained eligible. The Tar Heels will send the most players to the combine with 11.

Here are the players who will represent the ACC:

  • Anthony Castonzo
  • Rich Lapham
  • Mark Herzlich
  • Da'Quan Bowers
  • Marcus Gilchrist
  • Chris Hairston
  • Jamie Harper
  • Jarvis Jenkins
  • Byron Maxwell
  • DeAndre McDaniel
  • Danny Aiken
  • Ras-I Dowling

Miami offense going nowhere

November, 27, 2010
Doesn't seem to matter who's starting at quarterback today for Miami (it's Stephen Morris).

The Canes are going nowhere fast.

It's 0-0 as the first half is winding down. Damien Berry fumbled near the end zone, Graig Cooper fumbled around the 5-yard line, and South Florida got the ball on a touchback. Miami hasn't been able to convert its third downs, and the Bulls are forcing Morris into uncomfortable third-and-long situations while stuffing the run.

This isn't looking good for Miami.

ACC Helmet Stickers: Week 11

November, 13, 2010
Offense, defense and special teams all made the cut in the ACC's top five performers for Week 11:

FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins: He kicked the game-winning, 55-yard field goal for the 16-13 win over Clemson as time expired, and the Noles wouldn't have won without his two other field goals in the game. It was redemption for Hopkins, who last week missed the game-winner in a loss to UNC.

BC defensive end Max Holloway: BC's defense was the difference in the Eagles' 21-16 win over Duke, and Holloway got the final word. He batted down Duke quarterback Sean Renfree's pass on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line to preserve the win with 46 seconds left. He finished with 11 tackles, 4.5 for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble.

Virginia Tech's defense: The Hokies had six takeaways in their 26-10 win over North Carolina, including two interceptions from Jayron Hosley. UNC receiver Dwight Jones was held to just one catch, and the Hokies pitched a shutout in the second half after trailing 10-9 at the break. UNC quarterback T.J. Yates threw four interceptions, and the Hokies held UNC to just 19 total yards in the third quarter.

Miami running backs: The Canes took the pressure off of rookie quarterback Stephen Morris in the 35-10 win over Georgia Tech with their ability to run the ball. Miami had 145 yards on 21 carries in the first half. Miami finished the game with 277 yards on 46 carries, led by Lamar Miller with 85 yards on 11 rushes. Four different running backs -- Damien Berry, Graig Cooper, Lamar Miller and Mike James -- scored touchdowns.

Maryland's offense. Wide receiver Torrey Smith had had more than 100 yards receiving with 12 minutes left in second quarter of a 42-23 win against Virginia. He finished with a game-high 157 yards on seven receptions and 214 all-purpose yards. D.J. Adams ran for three touchdowns against Virginia, becoming the first Maryland player to do that since Lance Ball on Oct. 6, 2007 against Georgia Tech. And quarterback Danny O'Brien threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.
Miami's quarterback controversy began before the game against Georgia Tech even ended (and it ended in about the third quarter, with Miami's 28-10 lead).

Stephen Morris, filling in for injured starter Jacory Harris the second straight week, managed the offense well without turning it over and threw with a nice zip on the ball. Miami fans (at least those talking to me on Twitter @ESPN_ACC) are already expecting -- demanding -- Morris be the starter for next week's key game against Virginia Tech.

There's something more, though, that they should be asking for. Regardless of who starts at quarterback against the Hokies, Miami should continue to run the ball at least 40 times. In Miami's three losses this season -- to Ohio State (28 rushing attempts), Florida State (36 rushing attempts) and Virginia (29 carries), the Canes have run the ball fewer than 40 times.

Only twice this season have they done that and won -- against Florida A&M and against Pitt. Miami ran it 49 times against Maryland in Morris' first career start. No doubt that helped take some pressure off of him.

Four different running backs scored for Miami against Georgia Tech -- Mike James, Lamar Miller, Graig Cooper and Damien Berry. If Miami can do that against Virginia Tech next week, it won't matter much if Harris or Morris is under center.

Miami has the drops

October, 9, 2010
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- At some point, the players on the receiving end have to help Jacory Harris out. Back-to-back drops by Graig Cooper and Leonard Hankerson turned a potential touchdown drive into a field goal. The Canes were on FSU's 18-yard line and had three straight incomplete passes. This game has a lot of similarities to the way Miami played at Ohio State, when there were nine drops and more missed tackles. FSU leads 31-17.

Lamar Miller not dressed for Canes

October, 9, 2010
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- No lineup changes expected for the Canes, but running back Lamar Miller isn't dressed. Miller was listed on this week's injury report with a shoulder injury, so it's not a big surprise. Expect 2009 leading rusher Graig Cooper to play more. Offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson is expected to start again.

This is the first time the Canes have had a sold-out crowd in Sun Life Stadium. There are still a lot of empty seats, but I'm guessing there are a ton of people still stuck in traffic.
Miami running back Lamar Miller, who injured his shoulder last week at Clemson, was wearing a non-contact jersey at practice today, according to multiple reports.

Miller is the Hurricanes' second-leading rusher with 157 yards on 29 carries. The good news for Miami's running backs is that Graig Cooper, the leading rusher in 2009, is expected to play against Florida State. If Miller is out, Mike James is the next man up.

And don't forget about freshman Storm Johnson, who lost his redshirt opportunity when he was used on special teams against Pittsburgh. There are certainly plenty of options behind Damien Berry.

Miami's Seantrel Henderson to start

October, 2, 2010
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Miami freshman right tackle Seantrel Henderson will get his first career start, a school spokesman said. He has been working with the first team most of practice this week and will rotate with Jermaine Johnson. Running back Graig Cooper is still out. There are no lineup changes for Clemson.

No redshirt for Storm Johnson

September, 23, 2010
PITTSBURGH -- Miami freshman running back Storm Johnson has played on kickoff coverage, so there goes his chance at a redshirt unless he is injured.

Many were wondering whether or not Johnson would redshirt, as he had a great summer camp but is stuck in a loaded backfield. Damien Berry is having a great game and Lamar Miller has played, but with Graig Cooper injured it will be interesting to see how much Johnson is used this year and if it's more than on special teams.

About to get started at Ohio Stadium

September, 11, 2010
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The teams have gone through their warm-ups without coming to blows, although they came close several times.

It doesn't appear that LeBron James will be here today, although he could show up in a suite. He won't be on the sidelines, so Ohio State fans can save their boos for Miami.

The Hurricanes' final injury report lists running back Graig Cooper as doubtful, while defensive lineman Luther Robinson and linebacker Kevin Nelson both are out. Ohio State should get defenders Nathan Williams and Orhian Johnson back from injury today.

It's still overcast here, but no rain yet. Let's hope it stays away.
Miami and Ohio State on Jan. 3, 2003 provided one of the most exciting and talked-about games in recent college football history. Ohio State's double-overtime victory in the Fiesta Bowl secured a national title and marked the beginning of a surge under The Vest (Jim Tressel). It also signaled the end of Miami's amazing run of success. The teams reunite Saturday in Columbus (ESPN, 3:40 p.m. ET), as Ohio State continues its push for the national title and Miami aims for another signature win to prove that yes, The U is back.

Bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Heather Dinich break down the matchup in Columbus.

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesOhio's Terrelle Pryor is a Heisman Trophy candidate this season.
Adam Rittenberg: HD, always a pleasure. Tough first weekend for the so-close league, I mean the ACC. Both Ohio State and Miami looked impressive against weak competition Thursday night. We've got to start this off with the two quarterbacks, Terrelle Pryor and Jacory Harris. Both are Heisman Trophy candidates in my mind, and they're friends off the field who text each other from time to time. What are the big keys for Harris against an always stout Ohio State defense?

Heather Dinich: Ahh, Ritt, the pleasure is all yours. First, he has to get the protection he needs -- something he hasn't always had, but that appeared to improve in the season opener against Florida A&M. Second, Harris has to continue to play mistake-free like he did in the first half last week. Turnovers were a big issue for him last year -- 17 interceptions -- and Cameron Heyward and the rest of the Buckeyes' D are more than capable of getting him flustered. He’s got to stay on his feet and make smart decisions. What about Pryor? Miami's rushing defense is coming off its best performance in three years, with eight sacks against FAMU. Is Ohio State’s front ready to hold off the Canes and make Pryor look worthy of the Heisman Hype?

AR: Pryor looked much more comfortable with the offense in the opener, but he faced virtually no pressure from Marshall and could sit back and wait for wideouts Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey to get open. That should change against the Canes, and it'll be interesting to see how often Pryor takes off and runs -- his old method for dealing with pressure -- or stands in the pocket and makes a tough throw. Ohio State's offensive line finally seems to be coming together after several years of underachieving. It's a group filled with blue-chip recruits that boasts good experience now, especially at the guard spots with Justin Boren and Bryant Browning. A big key will be whether left tackle Mike Adams can protect Pryor's blind side.

Speaking of highly recruited offensive linemen and Ohio State, how is our pal Seantrel Henderson doing? Let's just say Buckeye Nation is waiting. Moreover, how do you see Miami's O-line matching up with Heyward, John Simon and Ohio State's front four?

[+] EnlargeJacory Harris
Jonathan Brownfield/US PresswireJacory Harris had three touchdowns and 210 yards against Florida A&M.
HD: Miami’s pass protection was pretty good against FAMU, giving up just one sack, and Mount Henderson got some snaps in which he swallowed up some smaller, less athletic players. He's still got a learning curve, though, and the truth is it's too hard to judge that group until it lines up against the Buckeyes. Some might have made too much of the power versus speed plotline in the Champs Sports Bowl against Wisconsin, but I’m wondering if that won’t be a factor with Ohio State’s defensive front in putting the pressure on Harris. The Buckeyes' run defense is solid, but can they stop this deep backfield with or without Graig Cooper?

AR: Heather, I'm glad you brought up the Champs Sports Bowl. I know this is a different and supposedly better Miami team, but I have a hard time forgetting how Wisconsin outclassed the Canes in that game, and would have won by more points if not for a Garrett Graham fumble near the goal line. If Wisconsin's defense makes Harris look like that, I can't imagine what Ohio State's will do to him. You also bring up a good point about Cooper, who missed most of the Wisconsin game. He's a tremendous athlete and could be a big factor on Saturday if he plays. Ohio State running back Brandon Saine is another guy who looks better and better as time goes on and had a great performance in the opener.

OK, you're on the spot. What happens in this one?

HD: Well, one of two things: A.) Miami wins and is an instant surprise contender for the national title, or B.) The Hurricanes lose and ACC fans flip the channel to the Florida State game, clinging to desperation that somebody can represent on the national level. I think Miami is good, but I don’t think they're ready for Ohio State -- especially not in the Shoe. I'm still in believe-it-when-I-see-it mode with these guys when it comes to national relevance. Can they win the ACC? No doubt. But the Canes need to win the Coastal before they're in the same realm as the Buckeyes. Do you see any upset in the making?

AR: Miami certainly has the talent to win this game. The Canes must win the turnover battle, force Pryor into some bad decisions and hold the edge on special teams, which surprisingly might be Ohio State's biggest weakness this year. While I forecast a great game, I don't see the upset. Ohio State is simply too strong up front on both sides of the ball and wins the battle at the line of scrimmage. Ohio State got over its big-game hump in the Rose Bowl against Oregon, and the Buckeyes aren't a slow Big Ten team, as they're often portrayed. The Buckeyes win this one by a touchdown.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Now for some quick post-game analysis from Miami’s 45-0 win over Florida A&M on Thursday night.

How the game was won: This was never really a game. The Rattlers play in the FCS and were totally overmatched. Jacory Harris looked good, going 12-of-15 for 210 yards with three touchdown passes. Only one of the incompletions was a really awful pass. It probably should have been intercepted. Despite the good showing, it is hard to get a good gauge for how Miami is going to look against Ohio State given the level of competition. One thing that should be heartening for Hurricanes’ fans -- it looked like Harris’ surgically repaired right thumb was just fine.

Player of the game: Harris gets the nod here, though he had great chemistry with Leonard Hankerson, who caught six passes for 115 yards.

Unsung hero of the game: Watch for redshirt freshman running back Lamar Miller. The Hurricanes are loaded at running back, with Damien Berry, Mike James and Graig Cooper ahead of him on the depth chart. But Miller can move. He predominantly played in the second half and ended up as the team’s leading rusher with 65 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown.

Bright spots: Cooper did get into the game, as Randy Shannon promised, but he only had a handful of carries. Right tackle Seantrel Henderson got into the game in the second half, and towered over the competition with his 6-foot-8, 355-pound body. He appeared to block very well. Defensive end Olivier Vernon had a monster game, with 3.5 sacks. Allen Bailey, who has gotten more of the preseason hype, was relatively quiet.

What Miami learned: It’s tough to learn much in a game where you are the clear favorite. But at least it knows Harris is OK, and Berry is pretty solid as a starter. Spencer Whipple appeared to outplay Alonzo Highsmith as the two played quarterback behind Harris. There was also was some shoddy tackling early on in the game that is going to have to get tightened up before the Buckeyes game. One other area to note: FAMU had early success with swing passes out of the backfield, so Miami will need to clamp down before next week.

Injury report: Defensive lineman Jeremy Lewis left the game on crutches, unable to put weight on his right leg.

What it means: It’s time to start talking about Ohio State.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- We are live from the Miami-Florida A&M game here at Sun Life Stadium in beautiful South Florida. Both teams are on the field now doing their pre-game warmups. Jacory Harris is working on shotgun snaps from center. There is no bandage on his surgically repaired right thumb.

Harris took the bandage off earlier this week in practice. He had planned to play with it but his thumb felt so good, he got rid of it. There are high expectations on the junior from Miami going into this season. Though he is not expected to play for the entire game, what part of the game he does play will be especially judged heading into next week's game at Ohio State.

Not many folks here yet, and this game is not expected to be a sellout. The sun is shining and it really is going to be a nice night for some football.

A few other notes:
  • We will have to wait and see whether Graig Cooper gets into the game. Coach Randy Shannon said earlier this week he would try to get his running back in as long as the weather holds up. Cooper is coming off a knee injury in the Champs Sports Bowl. It was initially feared he would be out for the season, but his rehab has gone ahead of schedule. There is plenty of depth at running back. Damien Berry and Mike James are expected to carry the rushing load early on.
  • When does freshman right tackle Seantrel Henderson get into the game? Henderson, one of the most highly touted prospects in the country last season, ended up at Miami after being let out of the letter of intent he initially signed with USC. He was listed on the third team, but backup Jermaine Johnson isn't dressed so Henderson could get into the game earlier than anticipated.
  • The starting linebacking rotation list on the pregame flip chart shows Kylan Robinson on the strongside, Colin McCarthy in the middle and Sean Spence on the weakside.
  • Several other Hurricanes are not dressed, for unspecified reasons: DLs Curtis Porter, Andrew Smith and Micanor Regis, LB Jordan Futch, RB Storm Johnson, DBs Jared Campbell and Keion Payne and OL Malcolm Bunche.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Miami coach Randy Shannon said injured leading rusher Graig Cooper has been able to work out completely with his teammates this offseason, and that there's nothing he hasn't been able to do. Still, Shannon said the staff will be cautious about actually giving him the green light to play again. They want to ease him back into it.

"He's running, he's squatting, he's lifting, he's jumping," Shannon said. "He's full go at everything. Now, will that day come when he gets on the football field and plays? I don't know. That's a process that we're going to take it slow and give him certain drills to build his confidence up and get him where he needs to be at. If he's healthy, he'll play."
  • Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor "would be great in our offense. We couldn't grab him in a phone booth when we played them."
  • Beamer said he "wished like heck" he would have redshirted Taylor, and they tried it twice, but at the time it was in the best interest of the team not to. Barquell Rivers still hasn't been cleared to play in the Boise State game.
  • Virginia coach Mike London compared Morgan Moses to a tractor trailer and said he could play right or left tackle.

Is Miami's Graig Cooper back?

July, 21, 2010
Maybe it was an accidental slip.

Maybe it was wishful thinking.

But in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon, Miami running back Damien Berry said leading rusher Graig Cooper is "coming back" after a severe right knee injury which could have sidelined him for the 2010 season.

"Our O-line is looking good, Jacory's healthy, Cooper's coming back: I feel like this could be a very promising season," Berry said.

Me: Is that out there? Is Coop definitely coming back?

DB: Coop is working hard, I hope he's back.

Miami hasn't made any official announcement regarding Cooper's status, but several of the players seem encouraged by the progress he has made.

"He's been in the rehab room getting better, every week he's getting better," said wide receiver Leonard Hankerson. "He's doing great."

With Cooper back, Miami could have the deepest group of running backs in the ACC. Mike James, Lamar Miller, Storm Johnson and Lee Chambers are all capable of significant carries. Berry said dividing up the snaps won't be a problem.

"It's not about who gets the carries, we're more concerned with winning games," he said.

Nor is he concerned about the group producing a 1,000-yard rusher.

"If I am that guy great, but if not, I'm not really worried about it because we're going to win games with or without a 1,000-yard back."