Don’t bother asking Corey Cooper to give a review of the summer’s top movies.
Stuck in a different kind of film room, the Nebraska sophomore defensive back had little time to take in the blockbusters over the offseason.
Now, if you’re interested in knowing Cooper’s run-fit responsibility out of the dime formation, you might get some feedback.
“I just spent a lot of time in the film room, asking a lot of questions, just making it a priority to learn this defense,” Cooper said.
“I mean, it’s no fun watching that’s stuff. It’s boring. But it’s disciplining yourself every day, and it will pay off over time.”
At least, that was the advice he heard from Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.
And Cooper has heeded it.
“Coach Bo, he hit home with me in the offseason,” Cooper said. “We had a couple of conversations. It just opened my eyes up and made me work.”
What specifically did Pelini say?
“He just told me I’m capable of doing whatever it is I want to do with football,” Cooper said. “Basically, I had to prepare myself mentally. I had a lot of catching up to do mentally, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
Secondary coach Terry Joseph, in his first season at Nebraska, delivered a similar message to Cooper at the conclusion of spring practice.
“You kind of tell guys where they stand and what you expect out of them,” Joseph said. “I was bluntly honest with everybody, and I think he’s one of the guys who took what I said, not as a criticism, but a way to improve. I think he took it upon his shoulders to make those strides in the summer and offseason.”
When he’s playing fast, Joseph said, Cooper can “really help us out” in the secondary. An athletic player who loves to run and hit, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Cooper lends versatility to the back end, having started a game at Wyoming last season at cornerback.
He’s now Nebraska’s dime back, replacing the graduated Lance Thorell, who filled the position last season. Cooper had one tackle — for a 7-yard loss — in last Saturday’s victory against Southern Miss, and stands to see more snaps against a UCLA team that will try to spread the field.
"He gives us a lot of versatility back in the secondary, especially against a lot of spread teams early in the season,” Joseph said.
“The more he plays and gets comfortable with the playbook, he’s going to play faster. We expect his production to go up with the more snaps he gets. He’s come a long way since the spring, and I think he understands what he needs to do to get better, as far as being more consistent with the mental aspects of the playbook and the details of every play.”
That, more than anything, is what Cooper learned last year during his redshirt freshman season.
“I learned how much mental preparation it takes to get on the field and be successful,” Cooper said. “Just mentally, I got a lot smarter this offseason. I put an emphasis on understanding the defense. That’s pretty much my biggest improvement.”