Tide's kid stars Yeldon, Cooper ready for BCS title game
By The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, 9:44 p.m.
MIAMI — T.J. Yeldon opened his Alabama career by rolling through Michigan's defense for 111 yards, and fellow freshman Amari Cooper took note.
Performing in the face of huge crowds and big, fast college defenders wasn't so hard after all, he figured. It's still football.
“He was like, ‘Oh, this is easy,'” Cooper said. “I didn't have a big game that day, but I could see it was easy.”
Cooper didn't break out as a freshman star until later for the Crimson Tide. But both have shined this season and get their biggest opportunity on Monday — against the terrific defense of top-ranked Notre Dame with a BCS championship on the line.
The tailback Yeldon and receiver Cooper have already put up nice numbers and plays that helped put the Tide into this position.
Alabama beat LSU on Yeldon's 28-yard screen pass in the last minute. Cooper's late 45-yard touchdown catch was the final score of a 32-28 win over Georgia in the SEC championship, when Yeldon ran for a season-high 153 yards.
It's nothing unusual for Nick Saban to call on the youngsters to play pivotal roles. Yeldon follows 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and 2011 finalist Trent Richardson in a string of quick-learning tailbacks.
And Cooper is challenging Julio Jones' freshman receiving records for Alabama.
“Coach Saban always says, ‘If you're good enough, you're old enough,'” Cooper said. “If you're good enough to play and you show the maturity, then they'll allow you to do that.”
Their freshman finale will be the biggest test to their maturity.
Yeldon has run for 1,000 yards as Eddie Lacy's backfield-mate even though he hasn't started a game. Together, they lead a running game that has produced 35 touchdowns and 225 yards a game.
They'll face a sturdy front seven on a defense that has yielded just two rushing touchdowns in 12 games.
Both freshmen spoke to reporters for the first time this season at Saturday's BCS media day because Saban doesn't allow freshmen to do interviews — title game rules force them to be available. Their abilities have been on display all season, though.
Both Yeldon and Cooper enrolled a year ago and went through spring practice. The 6-foot-2, 216-pound Yeldon capped it with an MVP performance in the spring game that didn't just impress fans but teammates.
“I didn't really know much about him because he hadn't really been running much with the (starters) in the spring,” Alabama center Barrett Jones said. “I was just kind of like, ‘Who is this guy?' T.J. is just such a freak specimen.”
Surrounded by cameras and tape recorders, Yeldon acknowledged that he's “not really a people person.”
“I don't even like talking,” Yeldon said, meaning Saban's policy probably came as a relief.
As for playing before millions for college football's biggest prize, he doesn't offer much insight.
“It's very exciting, but I don't know how to explain it,” Yeldon said. “It's pretty fun.”
Cooper lets his excitement show a little more. He said he's spent time this week envisioning himself making big plays, but added he always does that before a game.
“It's a great opportunity,” Cooper said. “That's what we've worked so hard for all our lives.”
He has 53 catches for 895 yards and a school freshman record nine touchdown catches. Cooper needs five receptions and 29 yards to break Jones' marks set in 2008, and the Atlanta Falcons receiver is a fan.
“He's a great player,” Jones said on Friday. “He's just got to stay focused and continue to do what he's doing. Stay humble, stay humble and keep working. The sky's the limit especially coming from a program like Alabama.”
If Lacy leaves for the NFL — he said Saturday he will make up his mind after the game — Yeldon would be the lead man.
Cooper will be joined by fellow freshman Chris Black, who was a little more highly rated but missed the season with an injury.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins stave off Ducks’ shooting barrage to win in shootout
- Roundup: Compensation reduced for BNY Mellon’s CEO; J.C. Penney ex-chief Ron Johnson didn’t get severance; more
- Trade to Penguins caps frenetic period for winger Stempniak
- Karns City’s defense shines in PIAA first-round victory
- Steelers restructure Brown’s contract to become salary cap compliant
- Penguins notebook: Maatta leaves lasting impression with Selanne
- Minorities crucial to filling Marcellus shale gas drilling jobs
- Mt. Pleasant’s St. Pius X serves up Lenten meals
- Pirates seek to tap Alvarez’s remaining upside
- Greensburg woman accused of assaulting nurse in Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital
- Steelers score with Springdale fundraiser