Top of the line: WSN's Cooper bags 4A Lineman of the Year

Published 11:59 pm Sunday, December 17, 2006

By BY BRUCE HIXON – sports editor
He had the preseason recognition and his season play only backed up what most people already thought.
W.S. Neal Blue Eagles senior left tackle Jared Cooper is the best lineman in the state in Class 4A.
That honor became official Thursday when Cooper received the award from the Alabama Sports Writers Association at its annual awards program held at Birmingham.
The 6-4, 295-pound Cooper was up for the award along with Andalusia's Josh Smithart and North Jackson's Brandon Earl.
The Birmingham News, which is one of the ASWA's awards sponsors, tabbed Cooper as one of the state's top 12 players before the season started. This came after a junior season where Cooper was chosen to the Class 3A All-State First Team, the Class 3A All-State Academic Team and selection and participation in the state's North-South Juniors All-Star Game held at Troy University.
The W.S. Neal skipper said the success of Cooper's team this season did not hurt him either. The Blue Eagles bounced back from back-to-back 4-6 seasons with a 9-3 record this year and a trip to the second round of the playoffs.
Cooper called off a heated recruiting battle before the season started when he verbally committed to play at Auburn University.
Cooper was the lone returning starter on W.S. Neal's offensive line this season. Led by Cooper's play up front on the left side, the Blue Eagles had a 1,000-yard rusher in Nykeem Barton and a 1,500-yard passer with quarterback Marquis Barksdale.
W.S. Neal offensive line coach Coy Campbell, who moved into that role this season, attributed much of Cooper's success to his work ethic.
Hathcock indicated Cooper's biggest strength is not his strength.
Cooper said he still has plenty of work ahead when he arrives at Auburn.

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