In his first few days on the job,
Cooper, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound cornerback, competed hard throughout the team’s three-day rookie minicamp. He always seemed to be around the football and listened closely to the coaching of 49ers secondary coaches Ed Donatell and Greg Jackson. As a left cornerback at rookie camp, Cooper lined up mostly against the team’s fourth-round pick,
Cooper, a former Rutgers cornerback, held his own and recorded a few pass breakups against his fellow rookies. It was a strong debut for a player who was mostly known for his pro day numbers at Rutgers.
“It was a great experience for me,” Cooper said of his rookie camp. “I got a chance to compete, be around the coaches and learn the system I enjoyed it.”
The seventh-round pick continues to grow as a cornerback, a position he’s only been playing since 2010. Cooper began his career as a wide receiver, but was asked to change positions by coach Greg Schiano, the current head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I have to give him some thanks,” Cooper said. “He saw the ability in me and he wanted to switch me over. It’s worked out so far and hopefully I can continue to grow at this.”
The position change turned out to be a wise choice.
Cooper never caught a pass in college, but did get on the NFL scouting radar as a defensive back. In 2012, he made one start, but appeared in 13 games for the Scarlet Knights. He recorded 42 tackles, one interception, three pass breakups and also blocked a kick.
Cooper’s 4.45, 40-yard dash and 39-inch vertical jump at Rutgers’ pro day really established his true NFL potential.
"A guy that has the traits you're looking for," general manager Trent Baalke said of Cooper after the draft. "You bring him in and hopefully he can develop."
“It was just a great opportunity,” said Cooper, who enjoyed his one-on-one battles with Patton and the team’s other rookie wideouts. “We definitely used it as an opportunity to make each other better.
“Iron sharpens iron. That’s anytime you come out here and compete – you want to make each other better.”
Cooper continues to learn the nuances of playing as a defensive back, but felt like the three-day camp was easier to handle thanks to the 49ers coaching staff.
“They didn’t overload us right at the beginning,” Cooper said. “We started to see things slower and were able to play ball.”
So when Cooper had single coverage duties against rookie wideouts in one-on-one drills, the Rutgers cornerback didn’t back down from the challenge. He actually used his receiver background to gain a better understanding of potential routes.
“I tried to take the years I had as a receiver and use it to my advantage for me,” Cooper said. “I think of all the things I would have done and the splits I would’ve used – things like that. I used that for a guide for what the receiver was going to do.”
For the rest of the offseason, Cooper plans on further developing his cornerback fundamentals. On Monday, he couldn’t help but take a long list of mental notes while watching the movements of veterans like
“I want to take some of their technique and try to implement them in my game,” Cooper said.
Cooper won't be completely unfamiliar with the locker room as he settles into his new surroundings. It helps that Cooper was a college teammate with 49ers right tackle
“It’s a blessing and an eye-opening experience,” Cooper said of Monday’s voluntary “Football School” workout with nearly the entire roster.
“I got to see these guys who’ve been in the league for a long while and guys who’ve been successful at the position.”