One Ohio State senior will not take part in Senior Day celebrations Saturday.
Jonathon Cooper, a captain from Gahanna Lincoln in the Columbus suburbs, has decided to take a redshirt for this season and return next year to lead what could be a very young Ohio State defense.
Cooper, a five-star recruit in 2016, entered the season as a returning starter with high hopes to lead a resurgent Ohio State defense, but a preseason ankle injury delayed his debut until Nebraska in game five of the season.
He has three tackles and a pass defensed this season, and because he has only played three games is still eligible for a redshirt based on a change in the rules last season.
For his career, Cooper has 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
Not counting Cooper, Ohio State has six senior starters on defense, and juniors Chase Young and Jeffrey Okudah are widely expected to leave early for the NFL draft.
Cornerback Shaun Wade and linebacker Tuf Borland and Pete Werner also have eligibility remaining but could go pro early so nearly the whole unit might have to be rebuilt next season.
Among Ohio State’s representatives in Chicago for Big Ten Football Media Days, Cooper talked about being excited to be a leader in his last go ‘round for his hometown team.
“Showing them the standard, how hard we work and what it takes to be at Ohio State or be a starter,” he said then. “I try to show them every day with how hard I work, how I carry myself, how I speak and how I talk to others. They let me know I do a pretty good job with that. My younger players have a pretty good respect for me, and I appreciate it.”
After making his comeback at Nebraska, he admitted he had gone through some frustrating days during his rehab process.
“It was tough, but I’m here mentally and just happy I even had a chance to run out there with my team,” he said in early October.
Although he was chosen as one of Ohio State’s seven captains before the season, he felt he was limited as a leader until he was actually able to play.
“It’s definitely different because you want to be out there and your teammates want to see you out there putting in the same work as them,” he said. “To be the leader I want to be I want to make sure I’m in the fire, in the game with my teammates.”
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