41 days to Camp Rantoul
Counting down the 50 most important Illini
No. 41: Ralph Cooper, LB
Why he’s important: Going into the fall with a chance to possibly see more playing time than he ever has during his previous three seasons with the Illini. The senior didn’t record a start last year and didn’t play in the first five games recovering from an injury. He saw time in the final seven games, mainly serving as a backup to Jonathan Brown, and finished with nine tackles, including one for loss, during the latter half of the season. He could vie for a starting spot this fall, but will have to contend with T.J. Neal, who had an excellent spring and is making strides. Either way, Cooper could find himself in special teams situations along with providing added depth to a linebacking corps that is anything but a guarantee when it comes to stifling opposing offenses.
Fast fact: When Cooper isn’t trying to improve his craft at linebacker, he’s busy planning for a possible career in broadcasting. The South Carolina native is a member of the Big Ten Network Student U production team at Illinois.
Last year’s ranking: No. 50
Tomorrow: No. 40
No. 42: B.J. Bello