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Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The SEC's best 25 players: No. 20

By Chris Low

Yes, there's at least one true freshman in our countdown of the SEC's top 25 players from the 2012 season.

No. 20: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama, Fr.

2012 summary: Cooper earned Freshman All-America honors from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He led Alabama with 59 catches for 1,000 yards and finished second in the SEC with 11 touchdown receptions. He averaged 16.9 yards per catch, which led all SEC players who caught at least 50 passes.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2012 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Cooper: Despite being slowed in the preseason with a foot injury and then spraining his ankle in the eighth game against Mississippi State, Cooper had a spectacular freshman season for the Crimson Tide. His 11 touchdown receptions set the Alabama single-season record, and no receiver in the SEC had a hotter close to the season. Cooper had three straight 100-yard receiving games and caught five touchdown passes in the wins over Auburn, Georgia and Notre Dame. He was at his best when Alabama needed him the most. Even in the Crimson Tide's lone loss of the season, the 29-24 setback to Texas A&M, Cooper caught a 54-yard touchdown pass with 6:09 to play to get Alabama within striking distance. In the SEC championship game win over Georgia, his 45-yard touchdown catch with 3:15 to play was the game winner, and he finished with eight catches for 128 yards against the Bulldogs. Then in the win over Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship, he caught a pair of touchdown passes and finished with six catches for 105 yards. Eight of his 11 touchdown catches came against SEC defenses, and he averaged 17.4 yards per catch against league foes. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Cooper is obviously a dynamic big-play threat as evidenced by his seven touchdown catches of 20 yards or longer, but he also runs great routes and catches just about anything he can get his hands on. Already, the debate is raging as to whether he will be better than Julio Jones. Time will tell, but Cooper is certainly off to a brisk start.

The Rundown