Rust holding back NFL's Jonathan Cooper?
 
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Follow our sports on Twitter at @WWAYSports

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DIXIE YOUTH BASEBALL JUNIOR BOYS WORLD SERIES

Jefferson Parish, Louisiana 6
Columbus County, NC 3

Columbus County is eliminated after Tuesday's loss.

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DIXIE YOUTH BELLES SOFTBALL WORLD SERIES

Burgaw, NC 13
Alabama 5

Burgaw advances to title game on Wednesday vs. Louisiana

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PHOENIX, AZ (WWAY) -- Former Hoggard Viking offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper missed his entire rookie season with the Arizona Cardinals after breaking his leg in a pre-season game last August. Click the play video icon for a profile and the latest info on the Wilmington resident. In reference to Cooper, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians clearly states a big need for Cooper to step up his game.

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PHOENIX, AZ (ARIZONACARDINALS.COM) -- Cardinals coach Bruce Arians believes rust is holding back Jonathan Cooper. Maybe competition will help knock it off a little faster.

The Cardinals' projected starter at left guard split time on the first team with backup Earl Watford at training camp on Saturday. Cooper was the No. 7 overall pick in 2013 and is expected to be a key offensive line piece for years to come, but has progressed slower than hoped from a broken leg which caused him to miss his rookie year.

After practice, Cooper said his level of play is not where it needs to be.

"There are some times when I'm showing flashes and I feel and look like the old player I was prior to being injured," Cooper said. "There are some times when you can look and see, that's not the guy we picked up. I definitely have a lot of work to do."

Cooper said he didn't expect the recovery to take this long, but he's keeping a positive mind.

"You just have to persevere," he said. "I think this will reveal character, show me I can overcome this and prove to be the player I want to be."

Before practice, Arians said Watford could push for Cooper's job if he continued to play well.

"I'm a little disappointed in where Coop's at right now," Arians said. "We need to see that special player that we drafted, that we had last year."

Watford had been battling Paul Fanaika for the starting right guard spot, but has shuffled over to the left side the past two days. He said there have been no in-depth conversations with the coaches about the switch, but was excited about his chance to work with the starters.

"You get your feet wet, and you want to stay over there, but you let things play out," Watford said. "Control what you can control and just keep fighting."

Fanaika, meanwhile, continues to excel on the right side, putting a stronghold on the starting job amidst no fanfare.

"He flies under the radar, does his job and goes home," Arians said. "That's a good offensive lineman. Nobody ever mentions your name."

Fanailka was unemployed for all of 2012 and was battling to make the roster at this point last year. Cooper's injury opened up the starting spot, which he grabbed and has yet to relinquish.

"It's definitely been a long journey," said Fanaika, who was a seventh round pick of the Eagles in 2009 and had played in only three games before last year. "At this point, it feels good to keep fighting. It really just goes to show that when you get your chance, you have to make it count."

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GREENVILLE, NC (ECU) -- Before conducting its annual media day activities Tuesday afternoon, East Carolina returned to the Cliff Moore Practice Complex and completed its second session of preseason camp.

The Pirates spent the two-hour morning workout in shorts and helmets before entering the next stage of preparation by putting on shoulder pads Wednesday. The team will conduct its first practice in full gear Friday morning.

While yesterday's practice focused mainly on an introductory reinforcement of fundamentals, today's area of emphasis started to address execution and timing elements. The Pirates spent two of the longest periods in skeleton drills (18 minutes) and a team-on-team segment (25) against the scout squad.

During the afternoon, ECU held its annual media day event with approximately 30 members of national, state, regional and local newspaper, online, radio and television outlets gathered inside the Murphy Center to conduct player and coach interviews.

Twenty-nine players were requested and fifth-year head coach Ruffin McNeill gave his annual preseason state-of-the-team address before going through a question-and-answer session that included the following selected comments:

Opening Statement:

"When I was going to Rhode Island for the American Athletic Conference Media Day, I looked around and saw Shane Carden, Justin Hardy, Maurice Falls and Brandon Williams, and then it dawned on me that this is their fifth year and that they've all been with us from the beginning. It's been an exciting year not just for our program, but our university going into the new conference. I know our administrative team has been preparing for this move for a long time, so we're looking forward to officially diving into it.

"This process began after the bowl game. Our first phase started with the best strength coach in the country, Coach (Jeff) Connors, and he attacks it and gets after them. That's my first indicator. When Coach C gets through with them, he tells me what he thinks the strengths are and the key words I look for are 'great team chemistry.'

"The second phase was spring football, which I thought we attacked well. My coaches and players did a great job of preparing and getting ready. Phase three was the summer and going back to Coach Connors. He raised the levels of standards and expectations during the summer for our team. Now we're in phase four, fall camp, which began on August 3rd and will continue until game week.

"I've been doing this for 34 years, and last night, one of our points is we teach our freshmen the different phases. One night I'll discuss turnovers and how important they are, another night Rick (Smith) and Lincoln (Riley) will talk about first down and second down importance, and then John Wiley and Dave Nichol will talk third down, fourth down and so on.

"We have a great group of freshmen that are very talented. That first day of Division I football is a surprise. I'm fortunate to have not just one of the best staffs in the country, but the best staff up and around. So last night, I was up on the board with the freshmen, and some of them were hanging their heads a little bit. They didn't understand why they weren't getting 70 reps a day, but now it's maybe 10. It was their first organized day here at East Carolina. I love that excitement.

"Last night, I did some math and said that the freshmen had been here for 32 hours. That's 1,900-plus minutes. I told them it's been 34 years, 406 months, 12,000-plus days, 300,000 hours and 18 million minutes I've been coaching. I told them that once they've put in 18 million minutes, then they can tell me what to do. In those 34 years, I haven't been around a better staff.

"There are two items that I believe in and have been a part of us since day one at East Carolina. It began when I stood behind this podium and was blessed to be named the head coach at my alma mater. It was first built on the team concept. Our dedication toward the team concept by everyone understanding that we all must be in one: 'What am I doing today to make East Carolina better?' From the beginning it's been built block-by-block. We made sure we brought people in that want to make the team great, more than a great player. That concept has not changed and will not. We want to make sure we're playing our best football the last game we play. We did that well last year. I thought our best game of the year was our last game of the year. Everyone understands that that starts right now.

"The people that are committed to what we want here at East Carolina, will be ready to meet any expectation that is before us. The expectation we have in our rooms far exceeds the expectations outside. The expectations we have will be met based on how well we stay focused on the team concept, and how well we stay dedicated to the vision and mission concept. Both of those are a result of having great mental toughness.

"Each year, the leadership core has grown. The first year, you could count them on one hand. The next year, it might have been one hand and a half. The third year, the leadership continued to grow. Last year, it was even bigger and this year it will be even larger. When those guys who have been a part of the block-building from day one come to me and say this is how we feel and this is what we know, I check it off and tell them I've got it."

On the importance of having many seniors at important positions heading into the new conference:

"Having the veterans who have been through the triumph and disaster, great wins and tough losses and adversity here and there, is half the beauty and makes it an easy and smooth transition. The other half is my coaching staff and the administrative staff. The on-the-field stuff is exciting because we have guys that understand the commitment it takes to perfect and hone their craft, while sharpening the tools in their toolboxes. It will give not only our team nationwide coverage, but also our university, our city and eastern North Carolina the coverage it deserves so much. As a group, we will represent it, conduct ourselves and coach in a first-class manner."

On being familiar with some of the opponents in The American:

"I noticed it back in the spring when I attended the first conference meeting. It's great to see that and they've all stepped up their programs. They all know the competition level has stepped up. It was great seeing familiar faces."

On the offensive line and development of Larry Williams(Laney):

"I've known our offensive line coach, Brandon Jones, since he was 18 years old. He was an All-Big 12 center, understands the offensive line and teaches it better than anyone I've been around. When Brandon has his group, he does a great job of developing. We began that back in the spring. I like the additions of Quincy (McKinney) and Dontae (Levingston). We don't have to treat those guys like freshmen. They're juniors and they conduct themselves like that. I've been impressed with them so far. Those two guys were recruited very heavily, but they've come in and they understand the team concept. They've attacked what Brandon wants up front. Larry Williams is one of those guys we need to keep growing. There's a line of expectations, achievement, thought and push. Larry has all of the talent to get there. I'm looking forward to seeing his progress."

Up Next:

Wednesday's Practice Time: 8:45 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Season Opener: Aug. 30 vs. North Carolina Central (8 p.m. EST)

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Follow our sports on Twitter at @WWAYSports

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WILMINGTON, NC (UNCW) -- Alex Wetherell, a member of two CAA championship teams and a participant in a pair of NCAA Regionals for the Seahawks, has returned to his alma mater as assistant men’s tennis coach.

The Cary, N.C., product has served as an assistant coach the last three years at Dartmouth after playing four seasons for the Seahawks and graduating in May of 2011.

"I’m absolutely thrilled to be back in Wilmington working for the Seahawks,” said Wetherell. “To return to my alma mater and coach under Mait DuBois is something special. I'm ready to take this team to even greater heights."

Wetherell played a key role as the Seahawks set a record for most wins in a season (19), earned the program’s first national ranking and captured their first CAA crown in 2009. The Seahawks entered the tournament as the top seed for the first time in program history and defeated No. 2 seed, VCU, 4-3. Wetherell paced the Seahawks to another CAA title as a captain in 2011 and closed out his career with a 46-23 mark in singles.

Wetherell was named UNCW’s Most Improved Player as a freshman in 2008 and received the team’s Sportsmanship Award in 2010 and 2011.

“Alex was my first choice for the job and it means a lot that we were able to bring someone in from the Seahawk family,” said Head Coach Mait DuBois, 2014 CAA Coach-of-the-Year. “He’s passionate about UNCW and what we are trying to do here. He is a terrific leader and person and will be a great addition to our team.”

In Wetherell’s first year at Dartmouth, the Big Green earned many program firsts as they earned 18 victories on the season and were ranked as high as No. 49 in the ITA rankings. Two Big Green players earned All-Ivy League accolades in doubles under his tutelage.

In his second year with the Ivy League team, Wetherell led the team to a national ranking for the second straight year and a pair of Big Green players earned All-Ivy League honors in doubles.

Last season, Dartmouth finished with its highest ITA ranking in program history (No. 33), won a program-record 18 overall matches and secured its best Ivy performance since 1997 with a 5-2 mark.

Before leaving Hanover, N.H., Wetherell helped the Big Green recruit the No. 12-ranked recruiting class in the nation for the upcoming season.

Wetherell earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at UNCW in 2011, with a concentration in Human Resources.

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