Quick start for Miami running back Graig Cooper

BY TIM REYNOLDS, Associated Press Modified: September 11, 2009 at 4:46 am •  Published: September 11, 2009
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flirted, briefly, with the 2009 NFL draft, which he would have received early entry eligibility for since he was three years removed from high school.

Instead, he quickly turned his attention to getting better at Miami. So he took the always-brutal conditioning program laid out by Miami strength coach Andreu Swasey and made it tougher, challenging himself to get stronger, faster and lighter — all at the same time.

The result? Even Cooper, who can be his own toughest critic, was thrilled with the difference. And after scoring the last two touchdowns of the back-and-forth epic in Tallahassee on Monday night, it seemed like Cooper was the freshest player left on the field in the final minutes.

"Coach Swasey, man. He’s the one who makes sure to work us real hard all the time, a lot of running, a lot of winning and making us a lot more explosive,” Cooper said. "I guess it paid off.”

It paid off in a lot of ways after the Week 1 win.

Miami got back into the AP Top 25 — checking in at No. 20, virtually assuring it’ll be ranked when it next plays Georgia Tech on Sept. 17. Cooper had the fourth-best kickoff return yardage in the country on college football’s opening weekend, and he got a huge influx of confidence heading into a game that already looms as vital to the Hurricanes.

Georgia Tech has beaten Miami four straight times, including a 41-23 laugher — it was 41-10 at one point — a season ago, a loss that kept the Hurricanes out of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.

"It’s one game, but it could make a big change for us,” Cooper said. "Florida State’s over. We had 24 hours to enjoy that one. It’s all Georgia Tech. Straight business, Georgia Tech now. We remember what happened last year.”