GAINESVILLE — Riley Cooper was a little concerned about getting back on the field after being away since January. But the senior from Clearwater was easily back in his element when the Gators opened fall practice just before 6 a.m. Thursday.
Catching passes from roommate Tim Tebow and making solid plays (albeit no pads yet), Cooper showed little signs of someone who has spent the past seven months playing baseball.
"It was good; it was really good," the receiver said. "I thought I was going to be more out of shape than I am. I felt good out there."
Cooper was a 25th round pick of the Texas Rangers and spent part of the summer playing for McKinney in the Texas Collegiate League. He decided to return to UF for his senior season but will also sign a contract with the Rangers.
HOLD THAT THOUGHT: When the veterans finished their morning practice, there was talk — when prompted by reporters — of an undefeated season.
Needless to say, that didn't sit well with coach Urban Meyer.
"Of course you know I don't want that talk," he said. "The goal has always been to go to Atlanta (for the SEC title game) and that's it. … We've got to take care of our business and practice hard. That's what counts — not what people say, not what reporters say, not what kids say.
"The kids just need to focus on the next practice. And we'll do that. … There will be no talk of undefeated once camp starts."
The Gators have a 6 a.m. practice today, then get the weekend off before officially starting camp.
REVERSING THE CHANGE: After discovering last season it is sometimes difficult to battle larger offensive tackles, senior LB Brandon Spikes decided to add a little bulk in the summer. After the morning practice, he was reconsidering. Spikes gained nearly 10 pounds, weighing in at around 258. "It was just something I was testing out," he said. ''But I think I might have to get it off." Spikes said the Gators had a phenomenal offseason and were eager to get practice started. "We know the target is on our backs, and we're ready," he said.
INJURY UPDATE: S Ahmad Black has a muscle problem in his back, RB Emmanuel Moody an ankle sprain and WR Carl Moore back issues. Meyer said Moore could return Monday; Black is day to day. Moody "is trying, but he's just gimping around," Meyer said.
CUNNINGHAM NOMINATED: Senior Jermaine Cunningham has been named to the watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award as colleges' top defensive end.
DOE UNCERTAIN: Senior LB Dustin Doe remains suspended after his arrest for driving with a suspended license. Meyer said there's no timetable for his return, but he won't be allowed back until his legal issues are resolved. He has two court dates this month. "Obviously, there will be punishment, and he's not welcome back until he takes care of his business," Meyer said.
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3389.