On a roster teeming with NFL-ready talent, Amari Cooper stands alone. He is so clearly the best receiver in college football that he’s creating a rare conversation regarding his stake in this year’s Heisman Trophy race. Rare because only two true wideouts have won the award (Tim Brown, 1987; Desmond Howard, 1991). Rarer still because Alabama has a trinity of talent at the running back position and two quarterbacks so capable that they’re splitting reps on the nation’s third-best team.
Saturday’s game against the Florida Gators was Cooper’s magnum opus. He was targeted 14 times, and hauled in 10 catches for 201 yards (third-most in school history), and three touchdowns. He averaged 20.1 yards per reception and powered the Crimson Tide to a 42-21 win over against the county’s sixth-best overall defense. Prior to yesterday the Gators had given up 575 total yards this season. Cooper produced 35 percent of that total himself.
In quarterback Blake Sims’s 445-yard performance—the second-best passing game in school history—Cooper was certainly the catalyst for Alabama’s offensive explosion. He entered the game as the nation’s leader in receptions (33) and, deciding that wasn’t enough, had the best receiving day of his three-year career, breaking Dennis Homan’s 47-year-old record of 18 career touchdown grabs in the process.
Cooper has 43 catches this season for 655 yards and 5 touchdowns. He’s averaging 10.8 catches, 163.8 receiving yards, 1.3 touchdowns per game. Alabama has eight definite games remaining this season. If he maintains these averages, he’ll absolutely decimate Alabama’s record book for career receptions (194 by DJ Hall), career receiving yards (2,923 by DJ Hall), receptions in a season (78 by Julio Jones in 2010), receiving yards in a season (1,133 by Julio Jones in 2010), and receiving touchdowns in a season (his own record, 11, that was set in 2012). He’ll have to rewrite the annals of the eighth-best team in college football’s history books. He’ll be a deity in a land that’s grown accustom to walking among them.
The single-season record for receiving yards in a season is a gaudy 2,060 set by Nevada wideout Trevor Insley in 1999. Consider that Alabama plays in a conference that has a conference championship game each year. Now add the inaugural playoff that the Crimson Tide seems destined to make. Adding three games to Alabama’s schedule would put Cooper in position to potentially pass every single-season receiving record. For example, if Cooper continued his 163.8 receiving yard average over the hypothetical 11 games Alabama has left to play, Cooper would end the season with 2,456.8 receiving yards, breaking Insley’s record. If he continued his 1.25 receiving touchdowns per game average, he’d finish with 18.8 touchdowns (tied for 18th-best all-time). If he continued his 10.8 receptions per game average, he’d finish with 161.8 receptions, breaking Freddie Barnes’ record (155) that was set in 2009. If Amari Cooper plays the way he has been in the first month of the season, he will posit the best receiving season ever.
However, if we’re being realistic, Cooper likely won’t continue these averages. How could he? He’ll probably just waltz his way to the Fred Biletnikoff Award, fall short on the Heisman Trophy — as so many have — and forgo his senior season to rake in millions of dollars from an NFL franchise next year. But at least we have him now. At least we can still watch the artist for a few more Saturdays and pick our jaw off the floor when he’s done carving masterpieces out a conference known for its defense.
Josh Planos has had his work featured at the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Rivals, Denver Post, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. He currently writes for Wall Street Journal Sports, the ESPN TrueHoop Network and The Cauldron. He loves interacting with readers via Twitter (@JPlanos).