Over the past few years, Ohio State has sent a handful of talented defensive ends to the NFL. This year is no exception, as Jonathon Cooper is poised to make an impact in the pros.
Cooper finished his Ohio State career with 77 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and two fumble recoveries. In his final season with the Buckeyes, he graded out as the highest-rated pass rusher in the Big Ten, according to Pro Football Focus.
Following the 2020 season, Cooper attended the Senior Bowl to showcase his skillset to NFL scouts. He didn’t disappoint those in attendance, wreaking havoc on the quarterbacks for the American Team.
Next up for Cooper is his pro day, which is set for March 30. A strong performance there would certainly help his draft stock.
We caught up with Ohio State defensive end Jonathan Cooper to discuss his career with the Buckeyes, how he’s enjoying the draft process, how his skillset will translate to the NFL, and much more.
The Spun: You were invited to the Combine and you were at the Senior Bowl. How has this process been?
Jonathon Cooper: The process has been going great. I’ve just been enjoying everything. I know it’s a little bit crazy this year, but honestly I’ve been enjoying every little second because I’,m only going to go through this process once.
The Spun: How was the Senior Bowl?
JC: Yeah, that was great. I can’t think Jim Nagy and the guys who put that together enough. That was a great experience for me just because a lot of the NFL teams were there. For me to have a great week of practice and then show out in the game, man, I’m so happy I was invited.
Jonathon Cooper sacks Jamie Newman on the first play of the 4th Quarter pic.twitter.com/i5gY2SkWCx
— The Victory Bell (@VictoryBellOSU) January 30, 2021
The Spun: I saw in a recent interview you opened up about your heart condition you had back then and the journey to now. Can you just explain what drove you to overcome that obstacle?
JC: It’s been tough, I’m not going to lie. It was a long journey even before my heart surgeries. Ever since I was a child I feel like I was fighting because I was born two months early and had to stay in the hospital an extra two months. I think it’s honestly just in my nature to keep fighting, and I give that credit to my mom. I know life isn’t perfect and that everyone goes through problems. It just gives me reason to not feel sorry for myself and keep moving forward.
The Spun: Let’s go back to your Ohio State career. What game will you remember forever?
JC: One game, one game. It’s got to be the win against Clemson just because of the buildup and what happened last year. Coming back and dominating them and getting the chance to compete for a national championship. It’s got to be that game.
#OhioState DE Jonathon Cooper has an explosive first step and plays with power, great leverage and uses his hands well. RS Senior was really productive this season.
Injuries have held him back but showed a ton of potential in 2020. Big week in Mobile could rise his stock. pic.twitter.com/8kzB3zycFM
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) January 19, 2021
The Spun: You guys made Trevor Lawrence pretty uncomfortable in that game. Did you guys feel pretty confident about hitting home in that one?
JC: Obviously Trevor is an amazing quarterback. He’s definitely one of the top quarterbacks this year. He’s a really tall guy, and if you give him enough time in the pocket, he’s going to make you pay. We’ve seen that multiple times. If you can hit him and make him feel you, then some of his throws will be off and he’ll constantly look for the defensive line. So leading up to that week we thought about how can we beat these tackles, guards and centers so we can affect him. It all went according to plan.
The Spun: You played with some great quarterbacks at Ohio State. How does Justin Fields compare to them?
JC: I think Justin is an amazing quarterback. I think he’s different due to mobility. I’ve seen a lot of great quarterbacks over the years, but Justin is different in his own sense. He’s going to give a lot to whatever team drafts him. I feel like he’s underrated to a lot of people, and they don’t see how hard he works and how smart he is. Like you said, all those other quarterbacks are great too. I can’t knock any one of them.
The Spun: Are you a bit surprised by how good Joe Burrow has been in the NFL?
JC: Nah, I’m not surprised. That’s Joe Burrow for you [laughing].
#OhioState EDGE Jonathon Cooper is RELENTLESS. Well-rounded game. Fast out of his stance. Has some power to collapse. Puts a hurting on TEs. Can stop the run. Former 5* recruit who got hurt in 2019 but really flashed this fall. Can help himself next week @seniorbowl #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/iuSWDL7esI
— Fran Duffy (@EaglesXOs) January 18, 2021
The Spun: Would you welcome a reunion with Urban Meyer in Jacksonville?
JC: Hey, I’m welcoming that with open arms. I loved Urban Meyer as a coach. He coached me really hard and I think we had a great relationship at Ohio State. If he picks me, I’m all there and he’d get everything I got. I think he’s going to do amazing in the NFL.
The Spun: You were the highest-graded pass rusher in the Big Ten, drawing similarities to guys like Chase Young and Nick Bosa. How does that feel?
JC: Those are my former teammates. They’re two Defensive Rookie of the Years, and what they’ve done in the NFL speaks to how great they are. I think that stat speaks volumes about how great of a player I am and what I could do in the NFL as well. I’m confident in my ability, so I’m not surprised to see my name up there with them.
Highest pass-rush grade in the Big Ten by season:
2016: T.J. Watt, Wisconsin
2017: Nick Bosa, OSU
2018: Carter Coughlin, Minnesota
2019: Chase Young, OSU
2020: Jonathan Cooper, OSU pic.twitter.com/aKlHrqJISb
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 3, 2021
The Spun: What’s the goal for your pro day?
JC: Just to show how fast I am. Also, I want to show that I can excel during linebacker drills and defensive linemen drills. I want to show that I’m versatile.
The Spun: Who are some former and current NFL players you like to study?
JC: A former NFL player who I watch a lot is Cameron Wake. I watch him a lot and I also watch Whitney Mercilus. I watch a lot of guys – DeMarcus Lawrence. They’re so many great defensive ends and pass rushers in the league right now. All you need to do is go to any team, find one, turn on the tape and study them.
The Spun: What’s your greatest strength, and on the flip side, what’s one are of your game you want to work on?
JC: My greatest strength is speed to power and my hands. Being under Coach Johnson, he develops hands like no other. After being under him for five years, I think I have a great sense of how to use my hands. I also developed my speed to power into a weapon. What I need to work on is playing in space more. I haven’t played linebacker or dropped back in coverage in college as much as I’ll probably need to in the NFL.
Highest-graded pass rusher by down in 2020:
1st: Jonathon Cooper, OSU – 90.9
2nd: Jordan Smith, UAB – 92.1
3rd: Kingsley Enagbare, S Carolina – 93.6
4th: C.J. Brewer, CCU – 83.0 pic.twitter.com/QRFax39xoT
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 15, 2021
The Spun: Is there a former Buckeye who you can’t wait to face in the NFL?
JC: Let’s see – you got a lot of them. It would be nice to tackle J.K. Dobbins. I didn’t really get to hit him in practice because we couldn’t touch him. It’d be nice to finally get him. Not that I have anything against J.K. since he’s my guy.
The Spun: What can we expect from Jonathon Cooper in the NFL?
JC: I think you’re getting a player who’s going to give everything he’s got. I’m tough, a leader, and someone who’s going to make an impact in the NFL. I’m not going to settle for anything less. I think my Ohio State career was just the beginning and I just scratched the surface of what I’m capable of. I’m excited to get after it.
— Jonathon Cooper (@JonathonCooper7) March 11, 2021
Cooper is expected to hear his name called on either Day 2 or Day 3 of the NFL Draft.
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