For Florida Gators receiver Jacob Copeland, becoming the team's No. 1 receiver this year isn't just a question of whether or not he's ready, but of how he will inevitably show people that he's been ready for a long while.
Now he will have that opportunity and will be sporting a number that will shine a bright light on him throughout the year, switching from No. 15 to the historical No. 1 jersey this season. While he's confident, don't get it twisted, he understands the importance the number holds.
"It’s a really big privilege and I feel like I’ll be accountable for everything that comes with that number," Copeland said on Wednesday while speaking with the local Florida media. "As we talked before, a couple months ago, when [coach Dan Mullen] had gave me the call, gave me the number, he was like 'you know what comes behind that number,' and the responsibilities and things, so I said, 'yes sir.'
"And then after that, we just moved on and I took the number. My mindset been changed and I've been real high on everything right now, so feeling good about everything going into the season."
The number has signified a playmaker on both the offense and defense with one player on both units sporting the numbers. Last year, receiver Kadarius Toney wore the number and went on to become the No. 20 overall pick in this year's draft, drafted by the New York Giants.
The number has importance, and it will be up to Copeland to live up to the standard, something that he's patiently been waiting to fulfill since he stepped foot on campus in 2018.
Florida has often rotated its receivers and under head coach Dan Mullen the most senior receivers would often receive the bulk of the repetitions. That hasn't changed, but it has allowed Copeland to sit back and learn from his elders, soaking in all of the information and advice he could get.
"Old receives always kept me motivated," said Copeland. "We built a good relationship, good bond over the time I’ve been here. They taught me the game. And now every position gives and I feed off that, like keep it going type of deal. But at the end of the day, y’all have to remain focused at all times to achieve what you want to do."
Those are some of the same teachings that Copeland is now looking to pass down to the younger receivers on the Florida roster, making sure they use the time wisely and develop, he said. That's something that takes maturity and growth from a receiver who, at times, grew frustrated while he continued to progress over the years.
At 6-foot, 202 pounds, Copeland is a ready-made receiver with the ability to play physically or vertically with his strength and speed. But, what sets him apart mostly, is his strength that can be seen on a consistent basis as he makes his way through the gridiron on Saturdays.
“I feel like I’m one of the most physical and strongest receivers in the country. Not one of them, I am the strongest receiver in the country, I feel," Copeland said confidently.
"I ain’t too much caught up to all that because, at the same time, being the strongest don’t always relate to the field. So, you’ve got to have field coordination and everything that will translate with that weight room type deal.”
For context, Copeland says the most he's benched since being at Florida was around 425-430 pounds, something that is almost unheard of from a receiver, especially at the collegiate level.
For now, the redshirt junior will continue down his path to becoming one of the top receivers in the country, working on everything to pave his ultimate path into the NFL. Working with who he says is the best receivers coach in college football, Billy Gonzales, perhaps that won't be too far out of the question.
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