Jonesboro quarterback and Clemson commitment Zerrick Cooper isn’t one of the best high school signal callers in the nation just because his friends, family and coaches at home say so. Others who deem themselves as gurus of high school football talent think so as well, hence Cooper’s participation in the 2015 Elite 11 Quarterback Camp held this past weekend at USC’s Trojan Field in Los Angeles.
Cooper, along with 29 other QBs considered to be the best high schoolers in the nation, spent two days showing off their skills and getting tutelage from the likes of former Super Bowl winning quarterback Trent Dilfer and renowned quarterback coach George Whitfield.
Cooper made it back in town yesterday, and thecrescentbuzz.com editor Gabriel Stovall got the chance to chat with him about his Elite 11 experience.
STOVALL: So this camp was out in Los Angeles, on that historic college football landmark called Trojan Field on USC’s campus. Did being in that atmosphere make you wide-eyed at all?
COOPER: “I wouldn’t say wide-eyed, but I was more excited than anything. I mean, I felt very special that out of 1000 guys, I would be included in the top 30 for the camp semifinals in L.A. That was an honor. I loved the opportunity to come out and work with them all again, and I was blessed for the experience.”
STOVALL: What was the biggest take-away for you from this past weekend in L.A.?
COOPER: “I think the fact that it was just a great experience being there with all of the top quarterbacks in the nation and getting to know those guys, but most of all being able to be coached by Coach Dilfer and George Whitfield who everyone knows is one of the best QB coaches in the nation. It was just a great, learning experience.”
STOVALL: How was the level of coaching different at such a camp where everybody is pretty much a 5-star guy, than maybe in normal camp/coaching experiences?
COOPER: “It’s really just the way they coach them out there. “Normally coaches will fuss at you and yell at you, but they coaches, they actually sat down and explained to you how to do things, and they just kept helping you you and helping you and going over and over things multiple times until you got it.”
STOVALL: Were you surprised at the level of “slow coaching” they did there? Did you expect it to be faster paced?
COOPER: “Well, the way I saw it, they’re just trying to help every other quarterback as much as they can, and do whatever they can to get them operating to the best of their ability and get them as ready as possible for the next level.”
STOVALL: Okay, so don’t be too modest or bashful. Tell me, how do you really think you performed out there?
COOPER: “I felt like I did great, being that this is like my third time going to a camp since coming off of my knee injury, I think I did great. I was able to run full speed and I threw the ball very well.”
STOVALL: What do you think was the thing that maybe made the coaches and observers raise their eyebrows at you the most?
COOPER: “Definitely being able to move on my knee. Most people doubted me and said I won’t come back as the same person I was my sophomore year, or that I won’t be able to make all the throws or whatever. But we did a bunch of the same drills like we did at the Regional Opening in Atlanta, like cliff climbing, simple 3-step and 5-step drops, rip and throw. The basic stuff. But I could tell that I’ve gotten better with my drops and with being more accurate than I was in Atlanta. So being able to come back and do that on my knee, I think it proved that I am back and strong.”
STOVALL: Since you’re pegged as a dual threat guy, do you ever feel like you’ve got to prove to people that you’re more than just a fast runner with a strong arm?
COOPER: “No, actually I don’t. In the type of offense we run at Jonesboro, I look to pass more than run anyway. Now don’t get me wrong. If I have to run, I will.”
STOVALL: Who were some of the other quarterbacks that out there that impressed you?
COOPER: “Nick Starkel, Jake Eason, Jett Duffy, Seth Green. Those guys are really talented. And since we were all out there together as 30 quarterbacks, we’ve been around each other and have gotten the chance to get to know one another.”
STOVALL: How did this experience help prepare you for the kind of season you say you want to have back home at Jonesboro in 2015?
COOPER: “I think it prepared me a lot by me being able to go out and learn from other coaches and quarterbacks. We also got the chance to take home an NFL playbook. That thing is huge and thick. I noticed how it seems you run a lot of option routes and utilize tight ends a lot in the NFL game. But it helps to show us what it takes to play QB at the next level. That’s just more knowledge for you to have.”