East Carolina continued to claim awards from Conference USA Wednesday with the selection of junior Vintavious Cooper as the league’s Newcomer-of-the-Year. It is the second time in the last three years the award has gone to a Pirate, following Dominique Davis’ selection in 2010.
Cooper, who was also a Second-Team All C-USA selection, ranks among the league leaders in rushing (fifth/85.8 pg) and all-purpose yards (sixth/104.7 pg). He has totaled 1,030 yards on the ground this season on 191 carries (5.4 ypc), becoming the first Pirate back since 2009 (Dominique Lindsay) to break the 1,000-yard rushing barrier.
The Homerville, Ga. native produced four 100-yard rushing games, third-most in C-USA, which included a career-best 172 yards with two ground scores and a successful two-point conversion at UAB. He also caught one touchdown out of the backfield for 30 yards against the Blazers in the first of his three consecutive 100-yard rushing contests with a touchdown (Navy/121 and Houston/140). Cooper notched his first 100-yard game of the season on Sept. 29, running for a game-best 151 yards on 23 carries with a touchdown.
Cooper has recorded eight total touchdowns in 2012 (7/rush, 1/reception), ranking second on the team behind first-team all-league choice Justin Hardy. Out of the backfield, he has grabbed 26 passes for 224 yards to lead all ECU running backs and ranks second to sophomore quarterback Shane Carden in total yards.
Currently, Cooper stands 13th on the single-season rushing charts and authored the 15th 1,000-yard rushing performance in the school’s annuals.
The five previous C-USA Newcomer-of-the-Year awards went to D.J. Hayden (2011/Houston/DB), Dominique Davis (2010/East Carolina/QB), James Cleveland (2009/Houston/WR), Curtis Steele (2008/Memphis/RB) and Brennan Marion (2007/Tulsa/WR).
Cooper and the Pirates will close out the 2012 season on Saturday, Dec. 22 against Louisiana in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 noon (EST) with national television coverage provided by ESPN.
2012 Conference USA Individual Award Winners
Most Valuable Player – Rakeem Cato, Marshall
Offensive Player-of-the-Year – Zach Line, SMU
Defensive Player-of-the-Year – Kemal Ishmael, UCF
Special Teams Player-of-the-Year – Quincy McDuffie, UCF
Coach-of-the-Year – Bill Blankenship, Tulsa
Freshman-of-the-Year – Kevin Grooms, Marshall
Newcomer-of-the-Year – Vintavious Cooper, East Carolina