Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Ron Cooper leaves LSU for NFL job
By David Helman
LSU coach Les Miles will have more vacancies to fill in his defensive backfield, it seems.
On top of departed starters Morris Claiborne and Brandon Taylor, Miles must now replace his secondary coach, as the school confirmed Wednesday night that Ron Cooper is departing for a job in the NFL.
Cooper is leaving Baton Rouge to take a coaching post with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette confirmed.
Cooper just completed his third season with Miles and the Tigers. He was hired away from South Carolina following the 2008 season to coach LSU's defensive backs. He has coached at the college level since 1983, with stints as head coach at Eastern Michigan, Louisville and Alabama A&M.
LSU fans will be loath to see Cooper go, and with good reason. During his stay in Baton Rouge, Cooper has set a high standard for the Tigers' defense. In Cooper's first year, the Tigers' pass defense jumped from a putrid 73rd in the nation in 2008 to 29th in 2009.
The improvement skyrocketed from there, jumping to No. 10 in 2010 and No. 8 during LSU's run to the SEC championship in 2011.
That production might have something to do with Cooper's protégés in the defensive backfield -- a talented group, to be sure. In Cooper's three seasons, the Tigers produced back-to-back Thorpe Award winners in Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne. Peterson was also a top 10 NFL draft pick, and Claiborne has a chance to earn the same distinction.
Another of Cooper's products, Tyrann Mathieu, was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011.
This makes two coaching vacancies for Miles since the end of the season. The Tigers lost wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales to Illinois in January. Miles filled that job by turning to the NFL, where he hired away Adam Henry, formerly of the Oakland Raiders.
This time, it's the NFL that's come snooping around LSU.
David Helman covers LSU sports for GeauxTigerNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @HelmanESPN.