Friday, October 08, 1999

Miami LB goes from small school to big time

Summit grad has NFL potential

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dustin Cohen creates havoc on defense, says coach Terry Hoeppner.
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        When Dustin Cohen was starring at tiny Summit Country Day, his father, Kim, feared that no one would notice.

        “If he didn't get offered a scholarship,” the elder Cohen said, “I didn't want it to be from lack of exposure.”

        So he turned around the recruiting process. He sold Dustin to schools, sending out letters, then videotapes, then more videotapes.

        Eight offers came. Cohen took the one from Miami University. And both sides have been very happy since.

        Cohen, a senior, leads the RedHawks into a road game against Bowling Green at 1 p.m. Saturday. “It's hard for an offensive player to affect a game single-handedly, but a defensive player can create havoc by himself,” Miami coach Terry Hoeppner said.

        “That's what Dustin does.”

        Two weeks ago against Central Michigan, Cohen intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown for the fourth time in his career, tying an NCAA record for linebackers. He also blocked a punt that led to another TD. He was basically the difference between victory and defeat in Miami's 24-16 win.

        Miami has struggled with injuries and is off to a somewhat disappointing 3-2 start, but Cohen has played up to the high standards he set for himself his first three years.

        “He's been our best player,” Hoeppner said. “The defenses have stacked up to stop (running back) Travis (Prentice). But Dustin's having a great year.”

        Like most Miami players, Cohen came to Miami because the big schools didn't recruit him. Cohen's problem was he played at Summit, a Division VI school. His stats were as good as anyone's his senior year.

        “The colleges are jaded toward that,” Kim Cohen said. “They say, "But he didn't play anyone.'”

        So Kim sent a letter to all 112 Division I football schools. He sent tapes to 40 of the 60 that wrote back. Twenty of the 40 came back, so he sent them to other schools.

        “It became a hobby,” Kim said. “It was a lot of fun. I kept going until I was out of tapes.”

        One of the tapes caught the eye of Hoeppner, then a Miami assistant.

        “We had never recruited a player from Summit,” Hoeppner said. “But I liked him, because he was so dominant at that level. The other players were scared of him.”

        Cohen started four years at Summit. On offense, he spent two years at receiver, one at quarterback and one at running back. On defense, he was always a linebacker. He set Summit records with 45 touchdowns and 560 tackles.

        The big question was where he would play at Miami.

        “They recruited me as a "big athlete,'” Cohen said.

        That meant he could be a tight end, H-back, fullback or linebacker. They put him at linebacker his freshman year.

        “That was fine with me,” he said. “I always liked playing defense.”

        It quickly became apparent that Cohen would not be moved to another position.

        “We couldn't block him when he was playing on the scout team,” former MU coach Randy Walker said.

        That was Cohen's true freshman year. Cohen carried only 198 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame then.

        He bulked up on MU's weight program and began getting playing time from the start of his redshirt freshman year. He became a starter by the ninth game of the year and averaged 10 tackles over his last three games.

        His breakout year was 1997. He led the team with 120 tackles, including 13 for loss, and had six sacks, an intercep tion and two fumble recoveries.

        He was even better last year: 146 tackles (best in the Mid-American Conference), including 12 for loss, and four interceptions, two of which he returned for TDs.

        This year, Cohen is playing at 240 pounds. He is strong enough to overpower linemen and still quick enough to play safety.

        “He just has great instincts,” Hoeppner says.

        Cohen said the instincts come from getting an early start.

        “I've been playing since I was 5 years old,” Cohen said. “I know the game.”

        Cohen started in the Bridgetown Little Highlander program playing against kids three years older than he.

        “He went up to the coaches one day and said, "If you tie my shoe, Coach, I could run faster,'” Kim Cohen said. “He was playing before he could tie his shoe.”

        Cohen starred in football, baseball and basketball at Summit. He may get to make a professional career out of football.

        Jerry Jones, publisher of the Drugstore List, rates Cohen as a late-round NFL draft pick.

        Cohen already has been invited to East-West Shrine game.

        “I tell everyone that somebody (in the NFL) is going to get a steal,” Hoeppner said.

        • Name: Dustin Cohen

        • Age: 22

        • Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-4, 240 pounds

        • Position: Outside linebacker

        • Major: Double major in business and organizational behavior. Will graduate in December.

        • Residence: Loveland, formerly lived in Bridgetown and Colerain Township

        • High school: Summit Country Day

        • Family: Father, Kim, is a Cincinnati police officer. Mother, Donna, works for Indian Hill schools. Has three brothers (Barrett works for Hamilton County; Austin plays football at the University of Dayton; Matt plays at Cincinnati Country Day) and one sister (Miya)

        • Honors: Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year last year. A finalist for Butkus Award, given to the nation's best linebacker


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