PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Marcus Cooper dabbled in cornerback during his freshman year at Bloomfield (Conn.) High, but by his own admission, survived on athleticism.
That was the last time he played the position until early April, when several days into training camp he was asked to move from receiver to cornerback.
Since then, Cooper’s play has caught the eye of coach Greg Schiano, who has remarked several times during training camp he is pleased with the red-shirt sophomore’s development on defense.
“My comfort level is much higher than it was in the spring,” Cooper said. “I feel more comfortable with the plays. I feel I have a good grasp of the position. It’s such a different thing. Instead of running away from people, I have to chase them.”
Cooper has worked his way onto the Scarlet Knights’ two deep, and he brings an interesting mix to the unit. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Cooper has more size than any other cornerback on the roster.
“There’s still a long way to go from where I want to be,” Cooper said. “I’m not sure what the coaches feel about that, but I want to impress them more. Right now the biggest thing is my off-man technique. And I need to learn the system better.”
Cooper played six games last season but did not make a catch.
However, he things the skills he learned as a star receiver at Bloomfield High, were he caught 64 passes and scored 15 touchdowns as a receiver, helped him develop a mentality of bouncing back after a poor play. At cornerback, that could mean needing a quick rebound after giving up a big completion.
“I think I’m pretty good at that,” Cooper said. “At receiver, you drop the ball and you have to come right back. You can’t let that weigh on you. I take the same mentality playing corner.”
Second-team fifth-year senior Jim Dumont was moved to strong-side linebacker earlier this week, and although his playing time may be limited, his thumbprint will be all over the defense.
He has played each of the linebacker positions, and is the elder statesman on the defense, giving him a unique role.
Whether it is showing starting strong-side linebacker Manny Abreu the proper way to prepare for practice, which he did in the spring and continues to do, or mentoring starting middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais or freshman middle linebacker David Milewski, Dumont is in the middle of it.
And, with Beauharnais making the move from strong-side linebacker, he and Dumont spent plenty of time together
“Just getting in the film room and helping him out,” Dumont said. “I’m pretty much familiar with all the positions, so helping him out and getting that extra film study with him and explaining what he should be reading, what he should be looking at, all the little details.
“He’s picked it up very well. He had a great attitude about it from the start and he’s been real open to my suggestions. He’s a tremendous player.”