Leading up to Week 0 games on Aug. 28, HERO Sports is going to name the best returning FCS player by jersey number, 99-0. Due to rosters being updated at different times for teams across the country and to keep things consistent, jersey numbers are based on the 2020 fall-2021 spring season.
Note: Jersey numbers are based on 2020 fall-2021 spring rosters.
6: Zerrick Cooper, QB (Sr.) — Jacksonville State
Cooper was a 4-star recruit out of high school and ranked the seventh-best quarterback in the country by 247. He redshirted at Clemson in 2016 and served as the backup to Kelly Bryant in 2017.
With quarterback Trevor Lawrence, 247’s No. 1 recruit, coming to campus in 2018, Cooper decided to transfer to find his best opportunity to get on the field. He chose Jacksonville State, and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told Jacksonville State head coach John Grass, “When you hold your first practice and see him on the field, you’re going to wonder if I’m crazy for letting him leave.”
Cooper earned the starting job at JSU in his first season in 2018 and went on to be named a HERO Sports Sophomore All-American and a First Team All-OVC selection. The 6-foot-3, 217-pounder with a cannon of an arm went 251-417 passing for 3,416 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He also rushed 109 times for 366 yards and six scores.
Cooper entered 2019 as a preseason All-American and the OVC’s Player of the Year. He ended up throwing for 3,404 yards, 28 TDs, and 12 interceptions off of 260-of-439 passing. Cooper was effective with his legs again, rushing for 320 yards and six TDs.
He was named to the All-OVC Second Team.
Cooper played in four games in the fall of 2020, but an injury sidelined him in Game 4. JSU went on to beat FIU 19-10 for an FBS win. In the four games, Cooper went 54-of-81 for 671 yards, one TD, and one interception.
His injury kept him out of the spring season, and backup Zion Webb stepped in to lead JSU to the playoffs while being named to the All-OVC First Team.
While consistency has been an issue at times, Cooper is as gifted of a quarterback as anyone in the FCS. Some of the throws he makes have scouts in attendance scribbling/typing notes with a smile. Cooper is on the NFL radar and is named to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl Watchlist.
If he’s on, JSU is a dangerous team. And Cooper will have to have his best season as the Gamecocks face a tough schedule.
Check out the latest episode of the FCS Football Talk podcast, which is also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart, Stitcher, and Spreaker.
Sam’s coverage of the FCS began in 2012 as the sports editor and eventual editor-in-chief of NDSU’s The Spectrum. After graduating in 2015, he spent three years in the newspaper and magazine industry while starting his work for HERO Sports in the fall of 2016 as a freelancer. In May 2018, he joined the website full time as the Senior FCS Analyst.