Paint Branch quarterback Gaston Cooper grew accustomed to make quick decisions while directing the Panther’s run-and-gun spread offense the past two seasons. He learned how to process his thoughts rapidly, and as a senior in 2013 — when he scored 63 touchdowns — he seemed to always make the right call on when to throw, and when to tuck and run.
The recruiting game is an entirely different animal. It requires long and more-calculated decisions, a choice on which schools to keep close, visit and ultimately attend. For Cooper, it’s been particularly frustrating. Despite having one of the more productive seasons for a Montgomery County quarterback in recent memory, he’s watched interest in his ability heat up and go cold again. Like former Northwest star quarterback Matty Callahan last winter, he’s heard concerns about his size. And he’s wondered if he should make his decision on National Signing Day in two weeks, or prolong the process into the spring.
But Cooper does have plenty of options, and even more interest. Wake Forest, Old Dominion and North Carolina A&T have inquired about the 6-foot, 180-pounder, and he holds offers from Bowie State and Duquesne. He will visit Marist this weekend, and has another visit lined up at North Carolina Central next weekend. But he still doesn’t know if those trips will set up an eventual commitment on Feb. 5.
“I’m probably going to try and make this decision by signing day, but if not then so be it,” Cooper said. “I still am kind of frustrated with the lack of attention, after having this kind of year.”
A second-team All-Met last fall, Cooper used a rare blend of speed and arm strength to take the Maryland prep football scene by storm in 2013. He threw for 3,190 yards and 40 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions in 369 attempts. He also led the team in rushing with 609 yards and an additional 22 touchdowns, proving that he could be anywhere on the field while leading the Panthers to the Maryland 4A state semifinals. He even caught a touchdown pass and kicked three extra points.
Cooper believes he was a late bloomer. He didn’t have the same type of performances as a junior, which might have hurt his stock, he said. He added that he’s not a prototypical 6-foot-3, 210-pound prospect that scouts usually target.
“It’s kind of more frustrating for me, knowing that I have the same capabilities of those guys,” Cooper said.
But he cited his senior year as an important body of work, one that showed he could not only run and pass, but also could make quick decisions when reading coverages. That will likely translate well at the next level for Cooper, who will make a decision after the trips to Marist and North Carolina Central. He’s already visited Bowie State and Duquesne, but he doesn’t have a front-runner.
“Right now, I’m just weighing all my options,” Cooper said. “Just pretty much looking at all the situations and the opportunities that I have.”