AJ Cooper - Defensive Line Fundamentalsby Lauren's First and Goal
Coach AJ Cooper teaches his fundamental drills for his defensive line and how they directly translate onto the field.
Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich announced Jan. 29, 2020 that AJ Cooper has been hired to the Cougar Football coaching staff as the defensive EDGE’s coach. Cooper, who owns 14 years of college coaching experience, comes to Washington State after spending the past six seasons working the defensive ends and special teams for the University of Wyoming. Prior to the 2019 season, Cooper was promoted to serve as the Cowboys’ defensive run-game coordinator. He worked the previous eight seasons at North Dakota State including the final five seasons coaching the Bison defensive ends. For Wyoming, he coached five All-Mountain West Conference players including one Special Teams Player of the Year and one Freshman All-American on the defensive line. Cooper helped the 2019 Cowboys finish sixth in the country in red zone defense, No. 11 in the country in rush defense (107.1) and scoring defense (17.8), No. 40 in tackles-for-loss (83) and No. 43 in total defense. Cooper helped coach All-Mountain West Conference second-team selection punt returner Austin Conway and saw redshirt-freshman defensive end Solomon Byrd earn Freshman All-America honors from the Football Writers of America. In 2018, Wyoming’s defense was among the best in the nation, finishing the season No. 19 in total defense (326.2), No. 25 in rushing defense (129.5), No. 28 in scoring defense (22.0) and No. 32 in pass defense (196.7). On special teams, Wyoming’s field-goal unit protected kicker Cooper Rothe, who led the nation in field-goal percentage at 94.1 percent (16-of-17), was named the 2018 Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year and First Team All-MWC, and a Lou Groza Award Finalist. The 2017 Cowboy defense become one of the best groups in the country as they led the country in takeaways (38), ranked ninth in scoring defense (17.5), were first in fumbles recovered (18), second in interceptions (20), eighth in defensive touchdowns scored (4), No. 13 in pass defense (174.9) and No. 23 in total defense (335.2). Cowboy special teams matched the impressive numbers, leading the country in kickoff return (28.3) and No. 30 in the nation in punt return (10.2) while the punt return coverage team was No. 27 nationally (4.7). Individually, Cowboy kickoff returner Tyler Hall earned Honorable Mention All-Mountain West honors as a sophomore. As a unit, the 2016 Cowboy defense ranked first in the country with five defensive touchdowns, No. 10 with 25 takeaways, No. 15 with 12 fumble recoveries, No. 22 with 15 interceptions. For Cooper, sophomore defensive end Kevin Prosser ranked ninth in the conference with 6.5 sacks. Several of Cooper’s special teams units excelled as well, the punt team ranked No. 24 in the nation in punt return defense (4.6) while net punting (39.3) ranked No. 31 in the country behind two-time Ray Guy Award Watch List punter Ethan Wood. The kick return team was fourth in the Mountain West (22.2) led by kick returner D.J. May who earned second-team All-MWC honors after averaging 27.9 yards-per-return, ninth-best in the country. The 2015 season saw Wyoming senior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough earn second-team All-MWC honors and was named to the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List and the Ted Hendricks Award Watch List as a junior and senior. He concluded his Wyoming playing career as the all-time leader in tackles for loss (39) and ninth all-time in career sacks (21.5), and signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos following the 2016 NFL Draft. Several special teams’ units also performed well in 2015 led by the kickoff coverage team who led the league in allowing 21.3 yards per kickoff return while the punt coverage team ranked was No. 21 nationally (4.6). The Cowboys averaged 23.5 yards per kick return to rank No. 29 in the nation led by kick returner D.J. May averaged 26.2 yards per kickoff return to rank No. 24 in the NCAA.