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'Talented' WR Pharoh Cooper has offense picked up

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Pharoh Cooper has been taking snaps on special teams. (Source: TheBigSpur) Pharoh Cooper has been taking snaps on special teams. (Source: TheBigSpur)
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COLUMBIA, SC (TheBigSpur) - Freshman Pharoh Cooper played just a few snaps in the season-opening win over North Carolina but he didn't make it onto the field much from that point until last week's 35-28 victory over Kentucky. That should change going forward as the South Carolina coaching staff looks to put the ball in his hands more often.

Cooper, who was recruited by the Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1) as a defensive back, moved to wide receiver just a couple of weeks before kickoff against the Tar Heels. It took him a while to get the offensive playbook down but now the staff feels comfortable putting him into the game.

Not only will Cooper get more chances on the offensive side of the football, he should get a shot on special teams. This week in practice, he's worked both as the kickoff and punt returner.

"He's done a lot of good things and knew he'd have an opportunity to do some things," wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said. "He went out there, did a good job. He's a talented young man who is ready to go play."

Cooper prepared from the time he committed on May 10, 2012 to be a defensive back at South Carolina. On August 13 of this year, he moved to the "Z" wide receiver position, which is the slot receiver in South Carolina's offense.

It took him a while to catch up to his teammates on the offensive playbook. Players receive a copy when they sign their letter of intent in February, so Cooper was several months behind. His teammates also had a couple of weeks of on-field practice, which he lacked.

So Cooper had to work hard and spent extra hours with graduate assistant Seth Strickland and Spurrier Jr. watching film and going over the playbook. Now he's ready.

"When I first got onto offense, I really didn't know anything at all," Cooper said. "It took me a while to learn the signals. The first couple of weeks, I'd go out at practice, run some routes and I'd get talked to by coach Spurrier about how it was the wrong route. I've been picking up the offense lately and I've got it 100 percent now."

Cooper registered two carries for 26 yards out of the wildcat formation last week. He lined up at quarterback and called his own number to carry the football. He also had his first career catch, which went for a 12-yard gain.

"He can catch, he's physical, and has an intelligent presence to him," Spurrier Jr. said. "He's a player, but he's a special offensive player."

The Havelock, N.C. native should also feature on special teams for the first time this season. After the win over the Wildcats, head coach Steve Spurrier said he was going to look for Cooper to return kickoffs and punts.

"I feel blessed to have the chance to start back there," Cooper said. "I'm just going to keep working hard to get on the field some more. Special teams is very important. If I have the opportunity, I'm going to take advantage of it."

Cooper came to South Carolina as a defensive back and Spurrier decided he wanted him on his side of the football. The former four-star prospect in the 247Composite is now just beginning to scratch the surface on offense.

"It's been a great idea for me," Cooper said. "It's working out good so far."

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