Plant High Football Adds Some Louisiana Spice
The Panthers' defensive secondary will have some unexpected help this fall following the transfer of Tristan Cooper, son of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new defensive backs coach.
In a year when the Plant High football team graduates three of its four starters in the defensive secondary, including the top three cover corners, the Panthers knew they were going to have to get some help from somewhere.
"It always seems like someone shows up out of the blue and just fits," said defensive backs coach Bo Puckett.
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired LSU coach Ron Cooper to be their defensive backs coach, Cooper's son, Tristan, an all-district receiver and cover corner from Louisiana's University Lab High School, landed in the Plant Panther family. Tristan Cooper's addition brings a legitimate contender for the No. 1 or No. 2 outside receiver spot, where two players have graduated from Plant's 2011 team, as well as at cover corner.
Cooper's skills have already impressed the coaches at Plant.
"He is one of the smoothest players I've been around in quite awhile," said Puckett. "His hands are great, too. He's the best 'bad ball' receiver I've ever seen."
This skill should come in handy as Plant looks to replace James Few at quarterback in 2012.
Cooper led his high school team to a 12-1 record in 2011 and brings a host of skills to Plant. Still, it will take some time to adjust to not just Florida speed, but the speed and military precision with which Plant head coach Robert Weiner runs practices.
"One of the biggest differences is the overall speed of the players," said Cooper. "There are athletes all over the field; it takes some getting used to.
"The biggest difference in practices is the pace," Cooper continued. "I knew this was a big-time football school when I noticed how hard everyone works in practice.
Cooper said he also sees a big opportunity coming to a decorated program like Plant's.
"I mean, they've won four of the last six state championships," Cooper said. "Most people dream about winning one. It speaks volumes about what kind of program they run here."
Cooper will join two likely starters, rising seniors Dereck Mann and KJ Walker, in the receiving corps and probably set up as their No. 1 cover corner.
Is it a problem for Cooper and his conditioning playing both ways?
"I've been doing it for the last few years, so I don't think it will be a problem."
Cooper was in attendance at the 2011 state championship ring presentation ceremony during the Panthers' May 18 scrimmage.
"I got a taste of one when I was in 8th grade in South Carolina when we won, but I didn't really feel like I was a part of that," Cooper said.
"Watching that ceremony made me want one this year so bad."