The importance of Ole Miss' win against Kentucky as the Rebels entered an idle week stretched beyond the immediate win/loss column.
The win, and much-discussed gameday environment, also benefited Ole Miss' recruiting efforts as prospects witnessed an SEC victory in the confines of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Lithonia, Ga., linebacker Cedrick Cooper was one recruit in attendance. In fact, it was Cooper's first experience at a college football game, and the 5 1/2 hour drive from Georgia to Oxford only added to the buildup that gameday provides.
"I'd never had the college experience before, so I was real excited the whole way going there. It was real cool," Cooper said. "I've been to colleges looking around, but I'd never been to a college game before. When I saw it and there was so many people there - 55,000 people - I'd never seen so many people in my life. When (Ole Miss was playing), they were yelling and cheering and stuff, I could barely hear myself. So it was real fun."
Cooper met the entire Rebel linebackers corps., and his Atlanta-area recruiter Terry Price after the game. A connection exists for Ole Miss, as Cooper spoke with with another linebacker and Lithonia native, Joel Kight, after the game.
"He represents Lithonia, Ga., as well," Cooper said of Kight. "So, I was focused on him - No. 15 - the whole game."
Kight's significant snaps as a true freshman in 2009 are not lost on Cooper, who said the opportunity for early playing time makes Ole Miss attractive because it "shows me you can come play as a true freshman if you're good enough, regardless of (age), they give you a chance."
The game was Cooper's first, but it was his second trip to Ole Miss after he visited during the summer.
"I met the coaches again and they told me I need to be there and showed me the linebackers and the type of defense they run. It was real fun.
"We spoke to coach Price, he sent us to an academic meeting and then went outside and watched the players get ready. We met some of the players afterwards. During the game, it was a real good experience," Cooper noted.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound linebacker leads his Lithonia team in tackles and most recently helped lift Lithonia to a 26-20 victory over Carver.
"I don't know the exact number, but I'm averaging 13, maybe 12 tackles a game," Cooper noted. "Anything below 10 or 12 is a bad game."
Cooper has a host of offers, he reports Arkansas, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and West Virginia are the schools that contact him the most, with the most aggressive recruiting out of the SEC institutions, but he reports "everybody is the same right now."
Clemson, Kentucky, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Minnesota, North Carlina, and Tennessee have also offered.
Cooper plans on taking all of his allotted five official visits. He knows where he will go for four -- Arkansas, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Clemson -- but is unsure of the destination for his fifth visit.
"I should be going to Arkansas for an official visit, then soon go to South Carolina when they play against Tennessee, then go to a Clemson game when they go against South Carolina on November 27th," Cooper noted, in addition to an unspecified date for an official to Ole Miss.
Cooper is the Rivals.com No. 53 linebacker and No. 67 player in Georgia, and he plans to wait until the completion of his senior campaign to make a collegiate decision.
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