Tracking the Tide: Amari Cooper

Editor’s note: Each day between now and Alabama's date with Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, we will review the season for a key Crimson Tide player or coach and attempt to project what’s next for him. Today we’ll look at wide receiver Amari Cooper.

No. 9 Amari Cooper

Wide receiver

53 receptions, 895 yards, 9 touchdowns

Role in 2012: Cooper began the season as a backup receiver but progressed quickly into a starting role, thanks to injuries to Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White.

The good: The freshman didn't waste much time showing what he can do at Alabama, flashing an above-average ability to get behind defenders and catch passes in traffic. He caught his first pass against Michigan in the season opener, two more against Western Kentucky the following week and hauled in his first career touchdown a week later. It wasn't long before he was breaking the century mark in receiving yards, which he did four times this season, and catching multiple touchdowns in a single game, which he did three times.

The bad: For a rookie, there was very little to pick on in Cooper's game. He was just as adept catching short- and medium-range passes as he was going deep. He could abuse second-tier talent such as Florida Atlantic just as easily as he did the likes of future NFL safety Baccari Rambo and Georgia. The only concern might have come in the SEC Championship in what was arguably the play of the game. Cooper showed his youth on the game-winning touchdown pass from McCarron. Instead of running his route and trusting the play, Cooper looked back midway and slowed down, thinking the ball was going elsewhere. While he was able to outrun the mistake, plays like that will catch up with him.

Crystal ball: There's no doubt Alabama has a go-to receiver for years to come in Cooper. He's the most successful freshman receiver the Tide have had since Julio Jones. Cooper is a complete wideout with the talent to develop into a first-round pick by the time his career in Tuscaloosa has come to a close. He'll be further aided next season with quarterback AJ McCarron returning for his senior year and the wide receiver corps getting a much-needed boost in terms of depth with the return of Bell, White and freshman Chris Black.