For a second-straight year, the Florida Gators will be losing a couple of its big-time playmakers at the wide receiver position. While there is still plenty of talent on the roster currently, it remains to be seen who will emerge as the best of the bunch.
One of the names that continue to get brought up, however, is receiver Jacob Copeland, who is poised to finally have a marquee role heading into his fourth season as a redshirt junior.
Copeland, 6-foot, 204 pounds, has waited patiently for his time to shine, an opportunity that hasn't presented itself due to players in front of him. Last season, the team's top receivers were Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes. The year prior, the team had plenty of talent including Van Jefferson, Tyrie Cleveland, Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain to go along with the previously mentioned players.
All six players will eventually be in the NFL, with the latter four already on their NFL teams, entering their second season at the highest level of football. Simply put, the talent in front of Copeland has been abundant.
Another obstacle that has always been in the way of Copeland and other receivers on the roster is the method at which Florida plays offense, with plenty of rotation at the receiver position. Fewer snaps translate to less production and fewer opportunities, ultimately.
In three years of playing time, Copeland has accumulated 45 receptions for 724 yards and five touchdowns. Last season was arguably his most productive year, contributing with 23 receptions for 435 yards and three touchdowns. Now, Copeland is one of the most senior receivers on the team and has already shown during spring practice that his time to shine has come.
In speaking with The Gainesville Sun's Zach Abolverdi in February this year, it appears Copeland knows it's finally time for him to put on a show.
“When I came out for spring practice, I looked around and realized, ‘It’s on me now.’ My mindset just clicked,” Copeland said. “I really gotta have a champion mindset and help lead this team. I'm the old head of the receivers, so I know all the younger receivers looking up to me.”
Copeland will become the top dog in the receiver group one way or another. As the veteran, he will be tasked with providing an example for sophomore receivers Ja'Quavion Fraziars and Xzavier Henderson, along with redshirt sophomore receivers Trent Whittemore and Ja'Markis Weston and a couple of freshmen receivers to boot.
While the team is returning transfer players, redshirt senior receiver Jordan Pouncey and redshirt junior receiver Justin Shorter, neither player has more experience within head coach Dan Mullen's offense than Copeland does.
With his size and athleticism, Copeland has shown plenty of promise throughout his time at Florida. His big-play ability was also highlighted last season by way of an 18.9 yards-per-reception average.
There's still plenty of time for Copeland to prove himself, but with everything set out in front of him currently, it appears likely that this year is his year, his time to shine.