At a glance, there's not much to connect Robert Cooper and Josh Jackson: Cooper is a tall, gangly (and white) quarterback from Baldwin County, Jackson is a stout defensive lineman from Gainesville, Ga., northeast of Atlanta. Similarities as football players or even their respective high school experiences: pretty much zero.
But: it's fair to call these two players the final two additions to Auburn's 2008 signing class. Jackson's commitment came out of nowhere on the eve of Signing Day--Tracy Rocker had been looking at him for Ole Miss before signing on with the Chiznick--and while Cooper committed a little earlier in the process (though not that much earlier, since the Tubby regime hadn't offered him), he didn't technically join the class of 2008 until just this past week or so, when Reggie Taylor's failure to qualify academically gave Cooper the opening to skip his planned grayshirt. (Yeah, yeah, I know DeAngelo Benton didn't technically commit until Signing Day itself, but I think that makes him kind of an exception.) On top of that, um ... look, there's no way to say it diplomatically, so I'll just say it: along with Daren Bates, these are the two lowest-rated players according to the recruitniks in Auburn's 2008 class.
That's still not a ton of similarities, but I did think it was enough to combine them into one post and get us a little closer to the conclusion of this series. So here we go.
Basics: Take it away, Auburn Signing Day info sheet:
Robert CooperYou'll note here that despite Cooper's aspirations to play quarterback, he's already listed by the official site as an ATH. You'll also note I wasn't exaggerating when I called him tall. And, it has to be said, that even the official bio admits he "played sparingly as a junior." Moving on:
ATH, 6-4, 204
Mobile, AL (Daphne HS)
High School Coach: Glenn Vickery
HIGH SCHOOL: As a senior, completed 125-of-195 passes for 1,700 yards, with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions ... Also ran for 605 yards and eight touchdowns on 104 carries, leading the Trojans to a 7-4 record and a Class 6A playoff berth ... Played sparingly as a junior, throwing for three touchdowns while picking off three passes on defense.
Josh JacksonDude ... 99 tackles? 16 sacks? For a defensive lineman? Even in high school, that's not bad. This isn't too shabby an "honors and awards" list, either. As for that Land Down Under thing, it's an annual tournament featuring teams made up of all-stars from a particular state ... so, basically, another Georgia All-Star type of honor. No biggie.
DL, 6-2, 260
Gainesville, GA (Gainesville HS)
High School Coach: Bruce Miller
HIGH SCHOOL: Had 99 tackles and 16 sacks as a senior while playing on a defense that allowed just 12 points per game ... Named to the Class 3A All-State first team by the Georgia Sports Writers Association ... An honorable mention all-state pick by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ... Named to the 7A/B-AAA All-Region first team ... Participated in the Georgia North-South All-Star game ... Slated to participate in the Land Down Under All-Star game in Australia ... As a junior, had 87 tackles, including five sacks, and an interception.
Oh, and everything specific I can find about it suggests that Jackson will play tackle for Auburn's DL rather than end.
Recruitnik hoo-ha: It's barely worth mentioning Cooper in this space: Scout and Rivals both give him two stars and don't have him ranked. (His Rivals "grade" of 5.2 was equal to long-snapper/starpilot Dax Dellenbach's.) ESPN didn't even bother to scout him, though there's some film at that link if you've got Insider. Cooper's other offers included UAB and South Alabama ... and that's it.
Jackson fares a little better. He's a two-star across the board and Rivals doesn't have him ranked, but Scout calls him the No. 94 defensive end (the second-best two-star DE, in fact ... not that I think that has any meaning whatsoever) and ESPN rates him the No. 84 defensive tackle. Their scouting report reads like so:
Jackson is a kid who is a bit of a tweener as a defensive end and defensive tackle ... He lacks ideal size for the defensive tackle spot, but skill set wise that may be his better fit down the road. Displays a solid get-off. Flashes the ability to use his hands and separate, but needs to do that more consistently ... A solid wrap-up tackler. Looks to be better suited at defending the run at this point and will need to keep developing as a pass rusher. Jackson lacks in some ideals, but can bring some versatility and be a solid college defender.Two-star or not, Jackson's offer sheet isn't all that bad: thanks to Rocker, Ole Miss had offered, as had N.C. State. AuburunUndercover was reporting an Arkanasas offer as well. So Auburn wasn't the only school who thinks Jackson has a chance to become a productive BCS-conference player ... though there weren't a lot of those schools, either, mind you.
Links of potential interest: No free film of either guy that I can find, sorry.
Info on Jackson isn't terribly easy to come by, but there's two interesting tidbits in this AuburnUndercover write-up:
Jackson was considered an academic risk early but has apparently made the required ACT score and projects as a qualifier ...1. It's not a complete explanation, but Jackson's early academic woes couldn't have helped his recruiting profile 2. Four TFLs in an All-Star game? Solid.
He was a standout in the Georgia North-South All-Star game, making six tackles, including four for losses.
Calling Jackson's commitment to Auburn a last-minute affair is only the slightest of exaggerations. Rocker called with Auburn's offer .. well it would have been on Signing Day if they'd been an hour ahead:
Just minutes from midnight on Tuesday, the Gainesville High standout received a phone call from Auburn University. On Wednesday -- National Signing Day -- he's saying "War Eagle."Here's a fun fact: Jackson committed without even having ever set foot on Auburn's campus. Another fun fact: one of Jackson's main hobbies is singing in an R&B/hip-hop group. (Someone alert DunnCity!)
"There was no hesitation from me," said Jackson, a defensive tackle. "Once they offered I knew I had to make a decision quick. My mind was racing, but I knew I was doing the right thing."
Here's a less fun fact for those of you who take the "Who were we competing with for his signature" question seriously: Jackson was on the verge of signing with UMass:
Jackson’s strong senior season (99 tackles, area-high 16 sacks) led to a surge of interest in the defensive lineman. He was courted by college programs at every level, including various SEC programs.More here. If there's a positive to take out of those links, it's this: Tracy Rocker genuinely likes Josh Jackson. He recruited him at Ole Miss, made the call to offer him at Auburn personally, and (unsurprisingly) has good things to say about him when asked:
At one point Ole Miss looked like a frontrunner, then defensive line coach Tracy Rocker — Jackson’s lead recruiter — left for Auburn.
Jackson hoped to go to Auburn with him, but eventually committed to UMass when it didn’t appear the Tigers would offer. At last, the call came from Rocker on Tuesday night. Jackson committed on the spot.
“It was automatic,” Jackson said. “I liked the tradition, I liked the coaches.”
"He has what I call his twitch. He has that initial twitch off the ball, and he comes from a good high school program."That's maybe less of a rave review than Rocker gave the other d-line signees at that link, but still ... Rocker obviously thinks there's something there, or we wouldn't be having this conversation. (Though trying to forge connections at a loaded school like Gainesville probably isn't a bad idea, either.) And that high school defense of his was impressive.
The nice thing about Cooper is that he seems to be willing to do whatever Auburn's coaches might ask of him ...
Cooper has also said that assistant coach
James WillisBad Lando told him that the coaches love his versatility.
"He said they feel like they can put me at free safety or wide receiver and I'd still do well. I'm just really excited to visit Auburn. I've had a blast every time I've been there from the spring games, to the camps and two games I've been. They've all been great."(Emphasis added--ed.)
... but that's not to say he's not looking forward to his shot at QB:
Although his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame makes him an enticing option at other positions, Cooper said he plans to compete at quarterback, and Auburn has promised to give him that opportunity.That "6-4, 225-pound frame"--along with the "Cooper has added 20 pounds this summer" nugget--start to help explain why a kid who only started for a year and threw for less than 2,000 yards in his entire career (for comparison's sake, Clint Moseley topped 8,400) wound up getting an Auburn offer. Because not only is Cooper 6-4, 225-and-growing, he's pretty quick--4.5 40 according to Rivals, 4.6 according to his coach. Maybe Chizik and Malzahn were impressed by Cooper's throwing the ball, but I'd wager they were more impressed with how well he could run with it ... or possibly catch it at some point down the line.
"That's definitely the position I want to play, and coach Malzahn told me I would get a shot at it," Cooper said. "So I'm just looking forward to going up there and showing what I have."
Cooper said he talks with Malzahn about once a week and believes he fits in well with the coach's offense.
"I love him. He's a great guy," Cooper said. "(His offense) is a mental game. You always have to be thinking the next play ahead. It's like a chess game. I love it. It's real fast-paced."
Moore good off-the-field stuff: Cooper was Academic All-State and would "like to be an orthodontist or be in sports medicine."
What conclusions we can draw, if any: As with Auburn's other "sleeper" recruits plucked from schools like UAB or Massachusetts (who might actually be able to take UAB these days), the odds are against Jackson or Cooper ever doing much more than filling out the depth chart.
But I find both of them strangely intriguing. For Jackson, the reason why can be summed up in two words: Tracy Rocker. If Rocker likes him, I like him. That he seems to have been as consistently productive as he was at Gainesville--against decent competition--is another good sign.
As for Cooper, well, if he couldn't get Troy (or any other Sun Belt team) to offer him as a QB, it's hard for me to see him making an impact at that already-crowded position at Auburn. But a fast 6-4 kid with that could maybe bulk up into the 250-pound range? That has "Gus Malzahn tight end running down the seam" written all over him. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he and Lutzenkirchen are tag-teaming the hell out of that position three years from now.
Both Jackson and Cooper seem headed for an almost-certain redshirt, but their long-term future remains as bright as we could hope for two kids who nearly land on the Auburn bandwagon at all.