Cooper the Playmaker

The Florida Gators are sitting pretty heading into their first road contest against Ole Miss. At 3-0, they have a big SEC East win under their belts after thrashing Tennessee, but Urban Meyer knows it could have gone either way.

Riley Cooper has made some big plays already this season, but there's a play that even Urban Meyer didn't truly appreciate until just now. After Brandon James returned a punt 83 yards giving the Gators an early 7-0 lead, Tennessee's LeMarcus Coker returned the ensuing kick 74 yards. He would have gone for a touchdown had it not been for Cooper.

"Riley Cooper, on that one play which in my opinion is the best play of the season so far and one of the best plays in my two years here, ran 135 yards and it took him 13 seconds," Meyer said. "That was the kickoff return by their guy, and he pulled him down. That Coker's fast. He pulls him down, and then three plays later, we get the interception. If they score, that's momentum right back in their favor, and I have a feeling that game doesn't end up the way it did."

Cooper wasn't done there, though. A few possessions later, Cooper caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Tim Tebow.

"We had a team meeting about that and discussed it," Meyer said. "After he gets sick on the sideline because he exerted himself so much, he runs by their corner and scores a touchdown. The chain of events in that little ten play momentum shift is about as powerful a set of plays there has been at this school in two years."

Cooper has been slowed by a sore foot since the end of last season and then sprained his ankle against the Vols, and it's been nagging him throughout the week of practice. But Meyer said he expects Cooper to be ready for Ole Miss.

First time on the road

A big win against the Vols last week, and a chance to avenge their only loss of 2006 to Auburn next week, sets up a perfect storm for the Gators this week at Ole Miss. But Meyer has been diligent about keeping his team focused on the Rebels.

"All the discussion has been about travel and being on the road," he said. "We're going to start that discussion tomorrow. That's what Friday's are for. Tuesdays and Wednesdays were just putting in the game plan and getting guys ready. We're playing a very talented team. It's going to be an unusual setting. I kind of like playing in this stadium, and I'm sure they do too. We're going to just keep discussing it and put a lot of pressure on these guys."

With an 11:30 a.m. local start time at Ole Miss, the Gators will have to change their routine a bit. The wake-up call will be at 6:30 local time, and the players will be told to get dressed in their shirts and ties before pre-game meetings start.

For some of the Gators, this will be their first college road trip.

"I had to remind [Chris] Rainey to bring a toothbrush," Meyer said. "We're going on the road, so I asked him if he had a gym bag and to get a clean pair of shorts and the whole deal."

Meyer and the freshman tailback have developed an interesting relationship over the last few months.

"I love Rainey," Meyer said. "He drives me nuts, but I love him. He loves football, and he loves Florida."

Injury updates

Freshman offensive guard Maurkice Pouncey was back at practice on Thursday.

"Maurkice Pouncey practiced a little bit today," Meyer said. "We're going to practice him a little bit tomorrow even with the shoulder pads on if we have to. We need him to be ready to go."

Andre Caldwell was also running around at practice, but even though he is expected to make the trip, he's not expected to play.

"Bubba looked terrific," Meyer said. "I'm not a doctor, but let's go. They tell me he can't play this week. He looks all right to me. He ran fast."


  • Freshman corner Joe Haden continues to improve and impress, but don't start making comparisons to players like Ryan Smith just yet. Said Meyer, "When you say Ryan Smith around here, that's a pretty powerful statement. He's not there yet, but he's got a lot of ability and he's starting to become a pretty good player."
  • Defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap has been practicing a bit at defensive tackle this week. Said Meyer, "He'll play some in there. It will be more in passing situations. He's really growing up and doing a good job."
  • The Gators are still looking for more interior defensive pressure. Said Meyer, "Interior pressure has to get a little better to help the outside pressure."

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