As part of our 2012 season review, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC this season, from no. 25 to no. 1. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof, obviously — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
Giovani Bernard and Bryn Renner will likely be tossed the majority of the praise for North Carolina’s offense this year. But of course, that ignores the integral role that Cooper played in all this. Whether in run or pass protection, the 6’3″ 295-pound senior was a force this year. He graded out at 90-percent on the season, and registered 10 or more knockdowns in 75-percent of his games. Behind Cooper, not only did Bernard run up a career year, but he also set the stage for the unsung success of Bernard’s backup, A.J. Blue (433 yards, nine scores) as well. North Carolina’s 11 sacks allowed (largely due in part to Cooper’s efforts) were tied for ninth in the entire FBS, and tied for seventh when discounting teams option-based offenses. It’s numbers like that that have NFL scouts salivating, and there’s now a pretty good likelihood he’ll hear his name called within the first 20 or so picks during the NFL Draft.