Four-star wide receiver Jacob Copeland has the Clemson Tigers as his new leader, but the Florida Gators are right behind them and still vying for Copeland’s eventual college commitment.
Auburn, North Carolina and Miami are all vying for 4-star prospect Jacob Copeland’s college commitment. But the problem for them is the fact the Pensacola, Florida native has two other schools atop his list at the moment.
The nation’s No. 8 wide receiver and No. 45 overall player told ESPN Clemson was his leader. However, the Florida Gators are not too far behind, and both programs are lining up to host Copeland for unofficial visits this spring, according to 247Sports.
The problem is, though, that besides the Gators needing young, elite wide receivers like Copeland, they also need to beat out Dabo Swinney’s Tigers because of the two teams’ history on the recruiting trail.
It all started with the 2006 recruiting class when Clemson found a way to nab former 5-star running back C.J. Spiller out of Lake Butler, Florida when many thought he’d end up in Gainesville.
Then, five years later, the Tigers struck again.
In the 2011 recruiting class, Clemson somehow managed to beat out Florida for former 5-star receiver Sammy Watkins despite the Gators having reeled in his older brother, former 4-star cornerback Jaylen Watkins, in the 2010 class.
Watkins headlined a wide receiving corps class that included Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant, the first pieces of what has now developed into Wide Receiver U at Clemson.
The Tigers dipped into the Sunshine State again for Artavis Scott in 2014. A year later, they landed Florida natives Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud. Then, in 2016, they aded Tavares Chase. All were rated as 4-star recruits.
With that string of successful wide receivers having gone on to the NFL through Swinney’s system, Copeland feels the need to make the trip to Clemson.
“I got to go check out Clemson. That’s Wide Receiver U, so I have to go check them out. They lost a few receivers, so I need to check their depth chart too,” he said.
The fact the Gators will soon have Copeland on their own campus will help control whatever damage is done when the 4-star receiver visits the Tigers. But if Jim McElwain’s staff can’t wow Copeland on his visit to The Swamp, then the Gators will risk losing yet another highly-touted playmaker to Clemson, and the Tigers will continue building their Wide Receiver U legacy.
Now, McElwain has done a great job of establishing a personal connection with Copeland, as the young wideout feels he can truly be himself around the Florida head coach. Kerry Dixon and Tim Skipper are also playing important roles in his recruitment, but arguably the biggest factor for Copeland will be how the Gators toss the ball around in 2017.
Copeland was impressed by the improvements that were made to the Florida passing game this past season, and with either Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask set to take the reins of the offense, the expectation is for the Gators to show a little less run and a little more fun (‘n’gun).
“I’m trying to see what’s going to change. I know they did a little passing this past season, but I’m trying to see what’s going to go down up and coming in the future, so I’m going to check them out in the spring,” Copeland said.
The other aforementioned contenders won’t bow out. They’ll fight until the end for Copeland’s commitment. However, the way Copeland’s recruitment is shaping up, we might be in for another Clemson-Florida battle.
And it will take a lot of work from the Gators to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.