Cooper has played center for his first two seasons at Tech, but Johnson has suggested he could play guard.
“He’s played two years at center; he should know what the guard does, but that doesn’t mean he does,” Johnson said. “He could also be very valuable to go in and play center even if he played a couple series.”
Johnson was hopeful for center Jahaziel Lee, who has subbed for Cooper since his injury, to improve against USF. Johnson said that Lee struggled against Alcorn State, often playing with high pad level.
“I think he’ll play like everyone else; he’ll get better,” Johnson said. “It’s really his first game against outside competition. Now he plays against our guys all the time and he did some O.K. things. I just thought he was a little bit higher than he needs to be.”
Johnson was upbeat about the team’s effort in practice this week, particularly the Tuesday session.
“I think (Tuesday) was a lot of energy and everyone was paying attention and listening,” he said. “It was a good day and (Wednesday) wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as (Tuesday).”
Johnson typically isn’t quite as complimentary about the team’s practices as that. Johnson also said that he didn’t think any players got hurt in practice this week.
Kickoff man selected
Johnson said he had determined which of two kickers, Wesley Walls and Shawn Davis, will take the kickoffs against USF, but declined to identify the winner. Johnson said after the Alcorn State game that Brenton King will be taking the placekicks and that either Walls or Davis would take the kickoffs.
USF quarterback Blake Barnett has Johnson’s attention. Barnett was a five-star prospect coming out of high school and played at Alabama before ending up at Arizona State and then USF as a grad transfer. Barnett is 6-foot-5 and 217 pounds.
“He’s a big guy, strong arm,” Johnson said. “He’s capable. He’s got a lot of ability. He’s got a rocket. He can make all the throws and he can pull it down and run with it if he has to. It’s probably not his cup of tea, but he’s good enough to do it if he needs to.”
Johnson said that cornerback Lamont Simmons, who missed three weeks with a hamstring injury, is “ready to go.”