Cooper prepares to lead Washburn rushing attack

When the Washburn Ichabods football team takes the field this season, it will be without two of their expected starters for the year—junior running back Vershon Moore and junior defensive back Pierre Desir.

At the Aug. 13 media day, head coach Craig Schurig announced Desir would be leaving the team to take care of family matters, while Moore was kicked off the team following his Aug. 9 arrest in connection with an aggravated bank robbery.

“With his situation, we’re kind of in a stance right now where we’re not really saying anything,” said Schurig of Moore’s legal situation. “It’s an on-going process, there really hasn’t been anything done university-wise, so right now it’s kind of a no-comment situation and just kind of waiting and seeing.”

Despite the losses, Schurig remains confident that the remaining Ichabods can achieve great things this season, with both sides of the ball returning a bevy of starters.

“I think we have a really good team coming back and we want to find some young guys that maybe can help out at some positions and get some depth, but I really feel good about our seniors and some key juniors that have been here for a while and will be able to have a really good year for us,” said Schurig.

At running back, where the loss of Moore leaves a void to be filled, senior running back Justin Cooper looks to be the starter. Cooper, who was once a starting back in his own right before losing the spot to Moore, enters his final season with a humble attitude.

“I’m just trying to get myself ready, mentally and physically,” said Cooper. “I’m trying to prepare my body to be able to take more reps and get my mind focused. I’m just trying to finish—start strong and finish the season strong.”

Cooper, who in 2009 said his goal for the season was to rush for 2,000 yards before becoming injured and losing his starting spot, isn’t focusing on personal numbers anymore. He said his new goal is to be a team leader and help the team be the best it can.

“It’s just being a leader,” said Cooper. “It’s kind of exciting, but I’m going to miss it when I’m gone, so I’m just trying to take every day and every moment and appreciate what God’s given me. He’s given me a gift, so I’m just trying to stay humble and take every moment and every second and make it count.”

Senior quarterback Dane Simoneau, who looks to follow up on 3,459 passing yards and 33 touchdowns from a season ago, said the only way for the team to go is forward concerning the loss of the Ichabods’ two starters.

“There’s not much you can do about it now, we’ve just got to come out and keep working hard,” said Simoneau. “We still have our same goals, same mindset, we’re just eager to start the season and get rolling.”

Besides the loss of Moore and Desir, the Ichabods are also grieving from the tragic death of redshirt-freshman linebacker Jermon Watson, who passed away June 11, 2011, but remains with the team in both spirit and on the roster.

“We lost a couple of players this year but I’m just trying to work hard for them,” said Cooper. “I know if they were here they would work hard, so I’m just here to work hard for myself and for them.”