Signing Day: Lehigh 4-star CB Cooper stays true to FSU, 3-star LB Chaney to Wisconsin
Maybe it was the cheap, run-down yellow Michigan hat that was sitting on the other side of the table from the newer, more stylish Florida State that gave it away.
But, admittedly, Lehigh Senior High School 4-star senior cornerback Omarion Cooper said he is "somewhat" about the drama. And FSU fans may never understand how close the Seminoles commit since June was to flipping to Michigan.
"It could have went either way today," Cooper said after signing a National Letter of Intent with FSU during a ceremony in the Lehigh courtyard Wednesday, ultimately choosing the "stability" of coach Mike Norvell's Seminoles staff over the situation at Michigan with coach Jim Harbaugh's future unclear.
Cooper signed alongside teammate and Lightning 3-star linebacker Jake Chaney, who was less about the drama and signed with the University of Wisconsin as planned since he committed in March.
"It's one of the best days of my life, to be honest. I'm happy to see my family here with me celebrating me," Chaney said.
"Madison, Wisconsin is one of the most beautiful cities in America. They have some of the greatest people in the country. I'm going to one of the greatest football programs in the nation. I'm really blessed to go and spend my time in Madison, Wisconsin."
Auburn commit Tarvarish Dawson decided to skip the Early Signing Period and wait until February following Tigers coach Gus Malzahn's firing.
Cooper, holding his son Omarion Cooper Jr., who he strongly considered in staying closer to home, overcame a bit of adversity during his announcement as he avoided a few falling decorative plants set up in the background before announcing for FSU.
"It wasn't really a last-minute decision. I was somewhat undecided but I thought about what's best for me and my family," Cooper said. "It's a stable staff (at FSU) and I wouldn't want to put myself in a bad predicament. Talking it over with my mom and looking back at the history (of FSU) and I saw what was best for me."
Cooper, ranked the 280th best recruit nationally in the Class of 2021 by 247Sports and 22nd best cornerback, wrapped up his senior season with 29 tackles, an interception and five passes defended.
The 6-foot, 172-pound Cooper is gifted with a big frame and long wingspan. His film shows an ability to jam receivers at the line that isn’t seen a ton at the high school level. And his speed gives him time to recover with the ball in the air on the off chance he gets beat.
FSU's recruiting class has 15 commits and is currently ranked 34th in the country by 247Sports.
"I trust Odell Haggins. I played football with him. He promised me he'd take care of our kids when they come there," Florida State alum and Lehigh coach James Chaney said.
Cooper had a message for Seminoles fans.
"Expect for me to be ready to come in and play, start as a freshman," he said.
Jake Chaney is ranked by 247Sports as the 42nd inside linebacker in the country and 124th recruit in the state. Starting out as an undersized 5-foot-8, 160-pound freshman and then an inexperienced sophomore thrust into action, Chaney committed himself to the weight room and film study over the next two years.
The result was two 100-tackle seasons for the two-time News-Press First-Team All-Area selection. The 6-foot, 210-pound Chaney jumped at the offer from Badgers defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard. He chose Wisconsin over offers from his father's alma mater, FSU, Michigan, Louisville, Pitt, Iowa State and Indiana among others.
"It's an example. People will say you're dad is a head coach, he played at Florida State. So you can automatically get him an offer. And I couldn't. I marketed him, he had great seasons. And nobody hit on him," James Chaney said. "He just got in the lab and went nuts. He started working out and lifting, started running. That is a testament beyond sports. If you work hard at anything in life, you're going to be blessed."
Wisconsin, which is 2-3 this season, was poised to have 19 players sign Wednesday for its highest-ranked recruiting class ever with a No. 13 ranking by Rivals and No.15 ranking by 247Sports.
"I'll follow the rubric that I've been following for now, but when I get up there I know they're going to have things set in place for me to get better and stronger," Jake Chaney said. "I'm just going to have to put in the effort to be able to do it. I want to be able to help Wisconsin be the best possible team it can be."