July 28, 2005

Riley reduces it

When you're one of the nation's top football players, the phone calls always never seem to stop from reporters, college coaches, friends and family asking you where you're going to go. But when you're Clearwater (Fla.) Catholic two-sport star Riley Cooper those calls are doubled when you take into account all the calls from baseball scouts and agents asking him about his future.

To help reduce some of the logjam - and the monster phone bill - the 6-foot-4, 208-pound athlete/safety and star baseball player that is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 64 player overall and No. 7 player in Florida has reduced his list of football choices to seven teams.

Turning down offers from some of the nation's top teams, including Auburn, Florida State, Miami, Oklahoma and USC, was tough, but the list has been officially sliced his father, Larry Cooper, said.

"We're cutting to chase and have eliminated all but seven teams," Cooper said about his son's choices. "As opposed to having all the people call us, we thought (Rivals.com) should be the first to get the news out, so it'll maybe calm down some for us."

So who are the lucky teams?

"All the Florida teams, except for Florida have been axed," Cooper said. "We're still going to look at Texas, Oklahoma State, Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Florida."

Texas is recruiting him both heavily in both football and baseball, and Cooper said his son has had some very good conversations with Longhorn baseball coaches Tom Holiday and Auggie Garrido. It's not clear whether or not the Horns have officially offered him in football.

Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy is the main person recruiting Cooper for the Cowboys, along with help from Joe Wickline.

Clemson has been recruiting him hard in both sports, and the Tigers' baseball program has scouted him twice in the last two summer baseball tournaments he's participated in. Notre Dame, Georgia and Tennessee are also involved heavily, and Urban Meyer has been the main contact for the Gators with "minimal contact" made from the baseball program.

"We've done our homework on both the baseball and football programs at each of these schools," Cooper said. "But we're also now waiting on the baseball rankings to come out in the next week. We've been told by scouts that he'll be a first-round pick and that he should be ranked in the top 10.

"From Riley's standpoint, he gets 20-30 calls a week from the football people and now he's getting similar numbers in baseball. This is the first real summer where he's gone out to national showcases, and after he blew up there we had to get a better grip on it."

What Cooper could be gripping a year from now is a monster major league baseball contract offer and that'll force him to grapple with the decision between playing football and baseball in college or heading straight to the pros on the diamond.

"He's played this summer for the Florida Bombers," Cooper said about his son. "They've gone to the World Series three years in a row, and they just won the entire world wood bat championship. They had 133 teams from all over the world, playing on major league fields with real wood bats. They scored 63 runs in the tournament and now he's up in a tournament in Tennessee.

"If they win that tournament, they go back again to the World Series."

As a centerfielder, Cooper has also performed well at professional baseball showcases, where he blistered the testing phase of the showcase. He clocked in at 6.25-seconds in the 60-yard dash - the standard distance in baseball used - giving him the second-fastest time in the nation.

"That's what put him on the map with the baseball people," his dad said. "They were like, 'where in the world did this kid come from.' Now it looks like he'll be one of the top 10 prospects in the nation."

And with that the decision will have to be made between both sports, but all Cooper cares about now is finishing with summer baseball, getting ready to hit the gridiron for the ball and finally getting his phone bill back in line.



 

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