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WVU’s Worley tasked with covering Tide’s Cooper

By Dave Hickman, Staff writer
AP photo
Alabama’s Amari Cooper beats Auburn’s Jermaine Whitehead for a 99-yard touchdown last year.
LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette George Washington fullback Mason Blake takes a handoff from quarterback Kaleb Mackey in a recent practice.

MORGANTOWN — On an Alabama team chock full of potential All-Americas — there are no less than eight on Phil Steele’s preseason first and second teams — perhaps the best of the lot is junior wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Sure, it’s an arguable point. Safety Landon Collins is on everyone’s all-star list. The running back corps is so good that junior T.J. Yeldon is ahead of sophomore Derrick Henry only because Yeldon chose to stick around for another season instead of going to the NFL.

The receiving corps is so deep that three could be All-Americas — O.J. Howard as a tight end and Christion Jones as a returner/receiver, in addition to Cooper. And get this: Linebacker Trey DePriest is on Steele’s All-America second team, but is listed as an “or’’ on the Alabama depth chart with sophomore Reuben Foster.

Cooper, though, is special. At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, he was a 1,000-yard receiver as a true freshman and would have been again as a sophomore but for a toe injury that slowed him half the season. But it goes beyond that.

Just ask Daryl Worley.

“When I look at him I see a complete receiver,’’ Worley said. “It’s not just what he does, but how he does it. He studies film, he works hard and he does everything you need to do to be a great receiver. And whether you’re talking about size or speed, he has that, too.’’

Worley knows because it’s his job to know this week. The sophomore cornerback will generally draw one of the toughest assignments on the field Saturday when he and his West Virginia teammates face the No. 2 Crimson Tide in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome. He’ll have to shadow Cooper.

“We don’t have many choices, right,’’ WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said when asked if Worley might be assigned exclusively on Cooper. “I mean, Amari Cooper is one of the best receivers in the country, so we’re going to have to put our better guys on him.’’

For West Virginia, that means Worley. While much is unsettled at the other cornerback spot — fifth-year senior and 2013 starter Ishmael Banks is suspended the first three games and Terrell Chestnut and Travis Bell figure to spell him — there are no such issues on the other side. Worley made his mark as a true freshman last year, emerging from a part-time nickel back and occasional safety to become the team’s best cover corner by the end of the season.

Cooper, however, is a different challenge. Worley was asked to compare him to a receiver he’d faced and couldn’t. He finally said that if he had to pick, he would say that Baylor’s Antwan Goodley comes the closest.

Goodley is also on most of the preseason All-America teams.

Covering Alabama’s receivers, though, means more than covering just Cooper. There’s also Jones and senior DeAndre White, along with Howard, another of those preseason All-America types who coach Nick Saban refuses to say will even start. Howard is also listed as an “or’’ on the depth chart, along with 6-7 senior Brian Volger.

“We’re going to have to cover DeAndrew White and we’re going to have to cover Christion Jones, as well [as Cooper],’’ Holgorsen said. “They have multiple options and we have to be able to have more than Daryl Worley be able to step up and cover some guys.’’

It’s good, though, to at least have one Worley, who looks at the task as a great opportunity.

“I definitely look forward to it,’’ Worley said. “It’s not just a chance to prove to myself, but to prove to other people around the country that I should at least be talked about when they mention the best cornerbacks in the country.’’

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.


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