Tre’Davious White is always focused on his man at the snap of the ball.
On Saturday, he’ll give Alabama receiver Amari Cooper a little extra attention.
In a matchup of strength vs. strength, Cooper and the No. 4 Crimson Tide meet White and No. 14 LSU in a prime-time CBS broadcast Saturday night at Tiger Stadium.
Cooper is the Southeastern Conference’s leading receiver — and it’s not close. LSU (7-2, 3-2) leads the SEC and is fourth in the nation in pass defense.
Said coach Les Miles of Cooper: “He’s awfully smooth.”
White compares Cooper to former LSU receiver and current New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr., calling him a player who can “run every route on the field.”
Stopping him starts with Cooper’s release from the line of scrimmage, White said. In other words, his first move is a good one.
“You have to stay patient, stay disciplined with your eyes,” White said. “He just does a lot of releases. You never know what he’s going to come with. Got to stay patient. If you stay patient, it will put you in probably one of the best positions you’ll be in for the route.”
Cooper, a junior from Miami who was a preseason All-America pick, has been held to fewer than 90 receiving yards once this season, and he has broken the 200-yard mark in two games.
LSU cornerback Jalen Collins said the Tigers don’t plan to put a specific defender on Cooper. In practice, LSU has used former walk-on receiver Chris LaBorde to act as Cooper.
Collins and White aren’t too familiar with Cooper. Collins has never covered him. Cooper missed the 2012 game in Tiger Stadium, and Collins didn’t play defense in last season’s game in Tuscaloosa.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll have my shot at him,” a smiling Collins said.
White matched up with Cooper just twice last year — both running plays, he said. Jalen Mills, now a safety and the nickelback, and Rashard Robinson took Cooper in 2013. He had three catches for 46 yards in Bama’s 38-17 win.
Arkansas is the only team that has slowed the wideout this year, holding him to two catches and 22 yards. How? The Razorbacks stopped Alabama’s run, making the Tide (7-1, 4-1) one-dimensional. They then double-covered Cooper using a safety.
Should we expect that from LSU? The Tigers aren’t revealing any plans, but one thing’s for sure: Cooper must be stopped at the line of scrimmage.
“Just be physical with him,” Collins said. “Try to mess up the timing of him and the quarterback and try to throw off some of his routes.”
That’s no easy task. Cooper drew Heisman Trophy-type love early this season with acrobatic catches and his chunks of yards.
He leads the SEC in receptions (71), receiving yards (1,132) and touchdown catches (nine). He has nearly 400 more yards and 20 more catches than the league’s next-best receiver.
Cooper is second nationally in receiving yards per game, averaging 141. That’s just 17 fewer than LSU’s secondary allows through the air per game.
A strength entering the year, LSU’s group of defensive backs has allowed the opponent’s leading receiver to break the 100-yard mark in three of five SEC games. Florida’s DeMarcus Robinson had five receptions for 104 yards, Mississippi State’s Jameon Lewis caught five balls for 116 and Auburn wideout Sammie Coates had four catches for 144.
“He’s just the complete package as a receiver, Collins said.