ATLANTA — Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was asked Wednesday night to name the five toughest wide receivers he’s ever locked up against. Without hesitation, he named No. 1.
“I can definitely start with the toughest: Amari Cooper,” Hargreaves said. “Without a doubt.”
Hargreaves matched up with the current Oakland Raiders wide receiver last season when the Crimson Tide rolled to a 42-21 victory against Florida in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Cooper got the best of the then-sophomore defensive back, catching 10 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
Hargreaves claims that he is the best corner in the game, but the three-time All-SEC performer admitted that even he couldn’t keep up with Cooper last September.
“With Coop, he really gave me everything I asked for,” Hargreaves said. “That was the first game I’ve actually tracked somebody all game, following him whatever side he went to and I mean, ‘Wow’
“I couldn’t cover him. He killed us. He absolutely killed us.”
It certainly wasn’t one of Hargreaves’ better showings, but the junior defensive back still went on to earn First Team All-SEC honors last season, and did the same in 2015. He credits some of that success to Cooper.
“You know just competing against him and just seeing how focused he was all game,” Hargreaves said. “It didn’t matter what part of the game it was. He never said anything to anybody. He was locked in. He was focused. He obviously executed. Every time the ball came his way he caught it. He made me such a better player. He kind of changed the way I looked at how to play the game.”
Hargreaves was named to Sports Illustrated’s Second-Team All-American team on Thursday, and is a likely first-round pick should he enter the 2016 NFL Draft. He could have another opportunity in the near future to get another shot at Cooper.