Jacob Copeland caught one pass for sixteen yards in his first season. It’s not a stat line that would typically generate buzz or excitement but Jacob Copeland isn’t your typical player.
Copeland is former Under Armour All-American. He has the speed of a thoroughbred in the body of a linebacker. He has hands can run all the routes.
“He is a freak of nature,” Kyle Pitts, a freak of nature in his own right, said of Copeland.
It wasn’t a lack of talent or ability that kept Copeland off of the field in 2018 it was just two injuries. In preseason camp it was a knee injury and then a quad injury soon after that kept Copeland off of the field until Florida’s game against Idaho and ultimately limited him to action in just three games. the injuries were frustrating and Copeland felt all of that while having to watch his team play from the sidelines and then on TV when they were on the road. He should have been there, he earned the right to be there and he couldn’t understand why his body wasn’t allowing it. He didn’t waste the year wallowing in it though.
“He’s done a great job, not a good job, a great job, is learning. Some guys when they get hurt, you see it in different places or who it is, different people. They don’t always — they drift away and they don’t always focus into the learning curve. I’ll tell you what. He’s done a fabulous job,” receivers coach Billy Gonzales told reporters during spring camp. “You ask him a question; he can spit it out. We go out and review, we go through a walk through, he’s the guy reading me the script. So, now he’s reading the script, he’s constantly learning, taking the rep mentally. He’s done a fantastic job. He’s got a group of brothers on this team trying to push him in the right way and keep him positive.”
Having the game taken away from you is hard for anyone — especially a young person — but Copeland is healthy now and a healthy Jacob Copeland is a head turner.
“He is going to surprise a few people. He is definitely very athletic and a guy we are going to be able to use on the offensive side of the ball. He is young kid so he still has time to grow and improve definitely a lot. I think he will be very good for us this year,” senior receiver Josh Hammond said. “He definitely gives us that juice a spark, kind of the way that KT (Kadarius Toney) gives to us. It will be good to have both of them instead of just KT to give that electric spark to us when we need it.”
The comparison to Toney might surprise some. Toney is listed generously listed at 5’11” 194 pounds, while Copeland is listed at 6’0” and 192 pounds but Copeland appears larger than those numbers in person and larger than Toney when the two are next to each other. Toney has his moments as a Gator and he’s electrifying, defying all science in the way knee and ankle ligaments are supposed to be able to move he zigs and zags around the field as if Dan Mullen were controlling him with the joystick on a controller. Copeland might not have that same twitchy speed that Toney does but he can burn.
“(Copeland is) Definitely bigger. I say KT is more joy-stickish as far as shaking people but Jacob is ‘peew’ and he will take it where needs to go,” said Hammond. “I think that is the biggest thing with Jacob when he clicks and when he starts going, he is gone. He is fast. He turns on quick when he needs to.”
The Gators’ receiver room is as deep as it has been in maybe a decade. There are guys ahead of Copeland right now but he will play for the Gators in 2019. We’ve seen glimpses of Copeland in the slot and even taking handoffs out of the backfield. With a skillset like he has Dan Mullen and his offensive staff will be able to find new, inventive ways to get him involved. One thing is for sure. The hype around Copeland is real and he’s waiting for an opportunity to show fans they’re right about it.