Two true freshmen stole the show Saturday night in Neyland Stadium.
‘Freshman' is a moot word at Alabama. The coaches and players are age-blind. Senior tight end Michael Williams put it bluntly when he said, "For any freshman, if you've got the talent, if you're good enough, you're old enough."
Cooper set a freshman record with 162 receiving yards and after scoring two touchdowns Saturday he's racked up five in seven games this season. Monday morning, he was named SEC Freshman of the Week.
Head coach Nick Saban had high praise for his studly youngster after the game.
"We think he's an outstanding player," he said. "He has learned to be very consistent in how he plays. He plays fast and hard."
Saban is huge on consistency, so to use that particular word to describe a player is a major compliment.
Cooper leads the team in with 425 receiving yards and is averaging 60.7 yards per game and 15.18 yards per catch.
Williams said he hasn't been surprised by Cooper's success one bit.
"I said it at media day that he was ready and now he's showing everybody what I've been seeing," he said. "He can be one of the greatest. Y'all can see what he has. The talent. As long as he can keep his head straight, he can be one of the greatest."
Added A.J. McCarron: "It doesn't surprise me at all. He can be as good as he wants to be. As long as he keeps working and keeps putting forth the effort, I mean the sky is the limit for that kid."
Julio Jones finished his freshman year with 924 yards (averaging 66 ypg) and four touchdowns. Cooper has already seen the end zone more times and is well on his way to out-doing the Alabama alum in yardage, too.
Yeldon rushed for more than 100 yards for the second straight game against UT, beating out Eddie Lacy for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Lacy currently leads the team with 570 total rushing yards and seven touchdowns, but Yeldon is on his heels with 565 yards and six scores.
Yeldon made a name for himself in the Tide's first game against Michigan, erupting for 111 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first freshman in program history to run for over 100 yards. He also ran for 144 yards last week against Missouri.
As a basis of comparison to some former Alabama backfield greats, when Mark Ingram was a freshman, he ran for a total of 728 yards and 12 touchdowns and Trent Richardson's numbers were 749 and eight in those respective categories.
"He does everything well," Williams said. "He protects, he runs the ball hard, he's a great receiver. You put all that together and that's just like all the other stable of running backs we've had here. You put all that together and it's almost identical to everyone we've ever had here. To do those three things is an asset to you and our team."
The meat of Alabama's schedule is coming up as it faces No. 11 Mississippi State, No. 6 LSU (in Baton Rouge) and No. 20 Texas A&M in the next three weeks. If these youngsters can stay consistent like they've been all year, they'll be an integral part of this teams success and as McCarron said, the sky will be the limit.
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