We'd been wondering this offseason if redshirt junior defensive lineman Xavier Cooper would declare for the NFL Draft. We got our answer Friday when he told Cougfan.com he is making himself eligible for the pros.
Cooper says he'll finish his degree with online courses while he trains in San Diego leading up to the draft. He expects to go somewhere between the third and fifth rounds when NFL teams make their picks in May.
That Cooper will be finishing his degree this semester makes this move much less surprising. He burst onto the scene as a redshirt sophomore in 2013, racking up 50 tackles including 13.5 for a loss and five sacks. His total tackle and tackle for a loss production dipped a bit this season, but he maintained his sack total again and was arguably the best defensive lineman on the team.
"But what does this mean for the defensive line next year?" you ask. While the Cougs will certainly have to dig into their depth a little more than previously thought, the good news is they were pretty deep along the line to begin with. Redshirt freshman Daniel Ekuale and junior Destiny Vaeao played well last year and lets not forget Ngalu Tapa sheds his redshirt next season.
All the best to Xavier at the next level. And a special thanks for gettin' out in front of Toni to block in the Apple Cup, man.
UPDATE: WSUCougars.com posted a letter from Xavier to Coug fans here but we've embedded it below as well.
Dear Cougar Family:
After careful and thoughtful consideration, prayers and in consultation with my family, I will be declaring for the 2015 NFL Draft. This was no doubt a very tough decision but I want to chase my dream of playing in the NFL.
I want to thank Washington State University and the Pullman community for all they have done for me and if not for WSU, I would not be in this place today. In every step of my four years at WSU I have tried to represent the team and this university with the utmost respect and dignity. I will continue to do so in the future.
I want to personally thank the following people. Former coach Mike Levenseller and Coach Paul Wulff who believed in me and my abilities not only to compete on the field but achieve my dream academically given there were many who told me I would never gain academic acceptance into a Division 1 school. I want to thank Coach Leach for his support of my decision and his staff for the opportunity to play at this great university. I want to particularly thank Coach Joe Salave’a, my position coach, who has been a mentor and like a second father to me over the last three years. I would also like to thank Miss Heather Erwin who has been my academic advisor and counselor, the key person here at WSU I can say was responsible for me being able to graduate in May, 2015.
I want to thank my family and in particular my parents who have supported me every step of the way while at WSU. Finally, I want to Thank "Cougar Nation" for the good times and the tough times we shared together. I will always be a Coug.