College Football Notebook

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The college notebook …
Johnny Manziel ran for almost 1,700 yards and 30 touchdowns as a dual-threat quarterback his senior year of high school at Kerrville Tivy.

Who would have thought he’d be even more impressive at Texas A&M when pitted against the defenses of the Southeastern Conference?

On Tuesday, Manziel picked up another major award for his spectacular debut season. He was voted The Associated Press Player of the Year. As with the Heisman Trophy and Davey O’Brien Award that Manziel already won, the QB nicknamed Johnny Football is the first freshman to collect the AP award.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s goal is to be sitting in New York next December as one of the finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

“I believe a defensive player can win the Heisman next year,” Clowney said.

Actually, he believes he can win it.

“That’s my next thing, New York,” Clowney said Monday night after the Gamecock’s practice. “Next season, I am going to come out and try to work harder than I did this season and try to get there.”

The consensus All-American was the Hendricks Award winner this year as the best defensive end in college. He finished sixth in the Heisman voting; Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won it. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was second and Clowney hopes he can become the first defensive player since Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997 to win college football’s most prestigious individual honor.

GREENVILLE — Vintavious Cooper has emerged to give East Carolina a strong running threat in the Pirates’ pass-heavy spread.

The junior college transfer has gone from sixth on the preseason depth chart to the Pirates’ first 1,000-yard rusher in four seasons heading into Saturday’s game against Louisiana in the New Orleans Bowl.

“I won’t go as far as saying I thought I’d run for 1,000 yards this year,” he said, “but I did feel like I could have a lot of production if I was able to get on the field a lot.”

Cooper has started the past seven games at running back for the Pirates (8-4), averaging nearly 104 yards rushing in that span with six touchdowns.

He’s rushed for 1,030 yards and seven scores.

for the season, earning second-team all-Conference USA honors as well as being named the league’s newcomer of the year. He’s also averaging 5.4 yards per carry on the season.

For coach Ruffin McNeill, Cooper’s emergence has been vital for the development of first-year starter Shane Carden at QB.

“He’s added a part to this offense,” McNeill said. “He did a good job of being patient, reading blocks. I think he has allowed Shane to develop and slow down a little bit and see things, so he’s been very valuable to us.”

Cooper, a native of Homerville, Ga., played the past two seasons as an option quarterback at Southwest Mississippi Community College. He missed spring practice at East Carolina, putting him behind when the team started preseason camp in August.

Running backs coach Kirk Doll said offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley started slow with Cooper, setting aside a few plays each game designed to help the 5-foot-9, 189-pound runner adjust to Pirates’ scheme.

Eventually, the workload increased. And after Cooper ran for 151 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries against UTEP on Sept. 29, the Pirates moved Cooper into the starting lineup.

He’s been there ever since, highlighted by a 172-yard rushing effort with two touchdowns against UAB in October.

“Everything he does, whether it’s school or football practice or weight lifting or whatever, he does his best,” Doll said. “He’s not just trying to get through practice. He’s getting something out of practice. He enjoys it. He enjoys the game and the people he’s around.

“I think his demeanor and his attitude has just been very good, not only for his productivity but for our team.”

Cooper said playing quarterback in a run-oriented offense left him prepared h