Omar Cooper's late addition solidifies IU football's highest-ranked recruiting class ever

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Lawrence North wide receiver Omar Cooper Jr. and his father, Omar Cooper Sr., saw a little too much change happening a little too quickly with the Indiana football program to be willing to put pen to paper Wednesday, the first day high school football players in the Class of 2022 could sign national letters of intent.

But the four-star wide receiver had enough of his concerns assuaged by Friday to still sign within the early signing period, giving the Hoosiers 20 high school and junior college signees in the class to go with seven Division I transfers. The Hoosiers class is rated No. 18 nationally and No. 4 in the Big Ten according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings, which makes it by far the highest-rated recruiting class at Indiana in the recruiting service era.

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Lawrence North Wildcats wide receiver Omar Cooper (11) rushes the ball towards the end zone but is brought down by Center Grove Trojans Caden Curry (91) on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 at Lawrence North High School, in Indianapolis. Center Grove defeated Lawrence North Wildcats, 29-19, for the IHSAA Class 6A Regional championship.
Lawrence North Wildcats wide receiver Omar Cooper (11) rushes the ball towards the end zone but is brought down by Center Grove Trojans Caden Curry (91) on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 at Lawrence North High School, in Indianapolis. Center Grove defeated Lawrence North Wildcats, 29-19, for the IHSAA Class 6A Regional championship.

Cooper gives the Hoosiers five four-star recruits and two on offense, the other being running back Gi'Bran Payne.

"We believe in Tom Allen," Cooper Sr. said of the Hoosiers' head coach. "I think he's a great guy and I believe he's a great coach. I believe that he will achieve success... I think they can build something special, and I would love my son to be a part of something special here at home."

The tumult around the program, though, gave the Coopers pause.

First, obviously, there was the Hoosiers' 2-10 season in 2021, a dramatic misfire after they entered the season ranked in the Top 25 of both national polls for the first time in more than 50 years. Then there was the firing of offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan and the late- and post-season rush to the transfer portal, which included wide receivers Miles Marshall, Jacolby Hewitt, Camron Buckley and Jordyn Williams. And there was also the de-commitment of quarterback Josh Hoover of Texas, who signed with Texas Christian.

"My son and I had different concerns," Cooper Sr. said. "His was that he hadn't talked to the offensive coordinator and didn't know how the new offensive coordinator felt or thought about him. Mine were, I saw the quarterback in his class de-committing. I saw that a lot of receivers were leaving. And then the season made me nervous, watching how that unfolded. I didn't want to send my son to this school and have everything fall apart and then regret it later like, 'Why did I send my son there, seeing what was happening?'"

Cooper didn't de-commit, though, and he and his father took note of the fact that outside of Hoover, no one else who was in the class when the season began de-committed. Not only that, the Hoosiers managed to add important pieces between the end of the season and signing day, including four-star defensive tackle Dominick James, rising-star running back Jaylin Lucas and three-star tight end Brody Foley, who de-committed from Tennessee.

"They have a top-four Big Ten recruiting class," Cooper Sr. said. "That's something new."

Insider: Despite brutal 2021, Tom Allen won on signing day, and is winning in transfer portal

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The Coopers also liked what they heard from new offensive coordinator hire Walt Bell in terms of the role he envisioned for Omar Jr. in the offense. Before Cooper's commitment, he was strongly considering West Virginia, but different members of the Mountaineers' offensive coaching staff had different ideas of where he belonged. Indiana, Cooper Sr. said, had always indicated Cooper Jr. could play as an inside our outside receiver, and Bell even took that the next step.

"He was telling me that's something he would plan," Cooper Sr. said. "If Omar is who we expect him to be, and he's the guy like he was in high school where you almost have to double him or at least have a safety helping, we're going to move him around. Move him around so it's hard to keep track of them in the scheme for that. I liked that answer. It's a great answer."

That was enough for the Coopers to be confident signing now. He enters a wide receiver room without much experience. Along with the transfers, the Hoosiers lose fifth-year senior Ty Fryfogle, who led IU wideouts with 46 receptions for 512 yards and a touchdown. If Florida State transfer D.J. Matthews, who played in four games before tearing his ACL, does not pursue or is not granted a medical redshirt for the 2021 season, the Hoosiers will return just two wide receivers in Javon Swinton and Malachi Holt-Bennett who caught a pass in 2021. They have however, added North Carolina transfer Emery Simmons to the roster as well as junior college transfer Cam Camper.

Cooper caught 132 passes for 2,856 yards and 22 touchdowns in his career at Lawrence North, leading the program to its first sectional title since 1990 this season, and was named the IndyStar Mr. Football position award winner at wide receiver.

Follow Indiana Insider Dustin Dopirak on Twitter @DustinDopirak or email him at ddopirak@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Indiana football recruiting: Omar Cooper signs with Hoosiers after wait

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