Ron Cooper has been around a lot of giants — both physically and historically.
The longtime football coach, who was hired to lead the Long Island University program in January, has a job history that reads like a pamphlet at the College Football Hall of Fame.
Last season he worked as a senior analyst on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama — the pinnacle spot in the sport.
Fast forward one year, and Cooper was standing near the 50-yard line in Brookville, watching the first official practice in a new era of LIU football.
“I was with one of the most highly organized guys this past season,” Cooper said Monday, moments before his first fall practice as a full-time head coach since 2001. “I got to see Coach Saban do it. It was sort of like a refresher course.”
So, Cooper, whose coaching resume also includes LSU and Notre Dame, knows giants. He can see one in the Brookville weeds.
“I think this program’s a sleeping giant,” Cooper said. “A lot of work still has to be done. But it is a willing university, willing to work together to get it done.”
Nearly everything about LIU is new. After all, the program is only entering its third full fall season as a Division I program (they played a shortened spring schedule in 2021 after the pandemic canceled the fall season). They play in the Northeast Conference and were 2-8 last fall under interim coach Jonathan Gill.
“Everyone’s in good spirits and has high hopes,” said redshirt junior tight end Owen Glascoe, a Massapequa High School alum. “It’s definitely a good feeling. I’m not saying last year we had a bad team, but this year just feels different. It just feels more upbeat, loose, confident.”
Cooper’s first camp will be wide-open, with the football lifer refusing to name starters at any position until late August. For a team that’s barely pierced the Division I landscape — and hasn’t had any success yet — no role is guaranteed.
“When you’re trying to build a program, there’s competition every day, every practice, every minute,” Cooper said. “They’ll be guys that may start the first game that may not start the second.”
SMU transfer Derek Green figures to be in the mix to start at quarterback when the season starts on Sept. 1 at Toledo, an FBS opponent. Green is the son of former NFL quarterback and current NFL analyst Trent Green. He came to LIU to play, but said he doesn’t mind the lack of an official title — especially on the first day of camp.
“I’m coming in here an older guy on the team, so I feel like I automatically kind of assume a little bit of a leadership role,” said Green, a graduate student pursing his MBA. “As far as competition, that’s going to happen regardless.”
Green has been on Long Island since June, working with his teammates to make sure fall camp got off on the right foot.
After playing sparingly at SMU in three seasons, he’s ready for action with LIU.
“I had an opportunity to stay at SMU, but I graduated in May, and I thought I’d try my chances somewhere else to get on the field a little more,” Green said.
As far as the “sleeping giant” aspect of all this, Green sees it too.
“I think those first four games, especially the first game — an FBS team playing an FCS team — they are kind of overlooking us,” Green said. “I’m sure Toledo’s looking at Week 2. The way I look at it, we have a few transfers from other big-time schools [Penn State, Alabama]. We think we have the speed and the right mindset that we can go in with the new coaches and make some noise. They’re not that much bigger than us, they’re not that much faster than us.”