The 90 Illini #45: Shammond Cooper
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Had this big realization this morning. I've spent years explaining that this countdown ends on the day of the first game, so when I'm on number 45 it's really 44 days until the season starts, but do you know who is in charge of changing that? Me. I can just switch it up and make the reveal of #1 happen the day before the season.
So I think I'll write an extra one of these tonight. 45 and 44 today, then 43 tomorrow, and then we'll just count it all the way down until the season starts. See how easy that was?
(Seriously, that's the kind of thing that is obvious to everyone but myself. I just say things and say things and then I realize that it's not some universal rule - it's just something I've always said and I can just as easily change it. It's like the 32 years I spent telling people that I didn't like avocado until my wife was all JUST TAKE TWO BITES OF THIS GUACAMOLE and now I love it.)
45. Shammond Cooper
Uniform number: 40
Year in school: Redshirt Freshman (without the Covid waiver, 3 years to play 3; with the Covid waiver, technically 4 years to play 4)
Height: 6'-2" -- Weight: 200 lbs.
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
High School: Trinity Catholic HS
Five best offers: Ohio State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Florida, Texas
Tom Cruise rating:
2020 statistics: Played in 4 games, 3 tackles
You probably know the background. 4-star linebacker from St. Louis picks Illinois over all of those schools listed above (and many more). One of the bigger recruiting wins in a long time.
His freshman year, I'm fairly certain there was a plan. Play him here and there but don't exceed four games so he can keep that redshirt. Last year, an injury took away part of his season. I want to say the injury was a broken leg, but honestly, I can't find that in print anywhere so maybe I have that wrong. I use the weak excuse of "don't quote me on that" too much but I think he broke his leg and that ended his season. Don't quote me on that.
His biggest hurdle the first two years (and probably still is?): size. He's listed on the 2019 roster at 205 lbs and is now listed on the 2021 roster at 200 lbs. I'd have thought he would have bulked up over these last two years (Tarique Barnes is now 230 lbs; Khalan Tolson 220), but apparently Shammond is still right at 200 lbs.
The reason I have Cooper down here at #45 and not higher on my list is mainly the weight listed on the roster, honestly. It might even be a typo or something, but 200 lbs is probably not big enough to play linebacker in the Big Ten. Tony Adams is 6'-0", 200 lbs and he's a cornerback. Shammond is 6'-2", 200 lbs and probably needs to get to 225 to play linebacker. Like, Derrick Smith is playing safety at 6'-2", 220 lbs. Should Cooper maybe be playing safety if he's only 200 lbs? I'm too hung up on this.
On my depth chart, I'm inventing a "third" linebacker spot for special situations. I don't know if this will be the case - I only know that other coordinators who have 3-4 defenses use something like this - but sometimes one of the defensive linemen comes off, the OLB (often the LOLB) moves inside to more of a pass-rushing role, and a third "inside" linebacker comes on to play more of a "strongside linebacker" role even though this defense doesn't have a Sam 'backer. Again, just my guess.
So I have NC State transfer Calvin Hart playing that role with Cooper backing him up. I'm sure Cooper will practice at both inside linebacker positions, but I could see him being used situationally when they want an extra guy at the second level. Until I see that he's bulked up, however (I really hope that's a typo), I just feel like he's behind the other guys (Hansen, Tolson, Barnes, and Hart) at inside 'backer.