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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Riley Cooper's foot looks just fine.

After missing all of spring practice with sesamoiditis, an inflammation of the the small accessory bones underneath his big left toe, the Clearwater Central Catholic graduate showed he may be Florida?s most reliable deep threat Saturday against Western Kentucky.

Cooper came off the bench and reeled in four receptions for 122 yards and two touchdowns, all game highs, in the Gators' 49-3 win .

UF coach Urban Meyer said Cooper's performance should earn the receiver a few more looks in the future.

"He's a definite deep threat," Meyer said. "He has a knack, he is big enough, he is extremely fast, so he deserves a few more shots."

On both touchdowns, Cooper had the defensive backs beat by several steps, allowing quarterback Tim Tebow to find the sophomore wide receiver in stride for breakaway scores.

Defensive backs often underestimate the speed of the 6-foot-3 receiver, fellow wideout Andre Caldwell said.

"When you see him come off the ball, he doesn't come off as fast, but when he gets moving, he?s just as fast as (the starters) after that," Caldwell said. "The next thing you know he's running in the end zone, running past guys."

On his third and fourth receptions of the day, Cooper showed off his ability to catch shorter passes as well. He lunged to the ground to catch an intentionally low pass from Tebow on a hook route for a 12-yard gain and ran an out route for a 9-yard reception from backup quarterback Cameron Newton.

In all, Cooper was targeted five times, as a fourth-quarter pass from Newton was broken up in the end zone.

Believe it or not, Saturday?s performance was not the best of Cooper?s young career.

He caught three touchdowns last season against Western Carolina despite playing through the painful foot injury.

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Tebow told Meyer last season that Cooper was perhaps the Gators' biggest deep threat before the lingering injury slowed him down.

"When he's healthy, he sure can go," Tebow said. "He shows it out there, and he showed it last year when he had a chance.

"You know you can count on someone like that. When he's healthy, he's really good."

Cooper, who credits trainer Anthony Pass with his recovery, said he is "98 percent" healthy.

"It's been frustrating, always waking up early, going into the training room, spending all those extra hours that other guys are sleeping or doing other stuff," Cooper said. "But it has worked out for the best.

"I just need to go out there and make plays and try to make a name for myself."

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