Based on his Tweets in the final few days leading up to signing day, it was obvious that Pensacola Escambia wide receiver Jacob Copeland was agonizing over his decision.
He apparently wasn’t getting a whole lot of help from some of his family members. That also was obvious Wednesday at his signing ceremony.
His mother showed up wearing a Tennessee hat and an Alabama shirt, while his brother, a Florida fan, donned a Tennessee hat.
When Copeland announced that he was going to Florida. His mother abruptly got up and left the podium, walking right in front of her son, who was speaking at the time. Later, she came up and hugged Copeland.
The point is, it was a tough decision for the former Florida commitment, and he should be commended for the way he handled it, UF coach Dan Mullen said.
“There was a great deal of discomfort for him,” Mullen said. “Over the last 72 hours, in talking to him, he’s having a lot of stress put on him, a lot of people trying to pull him in different directions.
“The one thing I always told him was, ‘You’ve got to block that out. You’ve got to do what’s best for your future.’
“He did a lot of soul searching and a lot of praying. He knew in his heart that this is where he belonged. Everybody in the country should be excited about him coming here. That’s a young man living his dream and doing what’s in his heart.”
Copeland committed to the former staff last summer. Shortly after the coaching change, Copeland decommitted and reopened his recruitment. Mullen said Copeland handled that well also.
“He called and said, ‘Coach, I’m going to decommit and take visits.’ I appreciated that,” Mullen said. “We had a great conversation. He said, ‘I still love Florida and can’t wait to come visit and get to know you and everyone on the new staff.
“Everything was handled right. We communicated with him the whole time. Obviously, there was comfort with the university, comfort and coming and representing his home state.”
Return of the four
After following the process they’ve gone through and checking on their academics over the past few months, Mullen has welcomed back the four players who were suspended last season for credit card fraud — Jordan Scarlett, James Houston, Ventrell Miller and Rick Wells.
“I did my research and studied, and we got through the semester,” Mullen said. “I wanted to see where everybody was academically and how seriously they took the responsibilities of being a member of this football program. And met with everybody that was involved.
“One of the things I talked to them about is obviously you’re going to be held to a slightly different standard because of what’s happened in the past, but I’m not going to judge you for what you’ve done in the past. That all happened before I got here. I am going to judge you on what happens in the future.
“To see those guys, to have them come back, they’re thankful for the opportunity to show what they can do as part of our football program, not just on the field but as part of the football program and what it means to be a member of this program.”
Dan the ‘copter man
Many made a big deal out of Georgia coach Kirby Smart showing up at high schools in a helicopter during recruiting. Mullen said what’s the big deal?
“I’ve been doing that for years, going to high school games and cruising around the state of Mississippi,” he said. “I always want two pilots because I don’t know how to fly it myself.”
Mullen said there have been some scary moments.
“I’ve been in the bulb with (offensive line coach) John Hevesy and he moves to look out the window and the whole thing tips sideways,” Mullen said. “I said, ‘Don’t move, just sit still.’
“I’ve been up there in the bulb once where the guy said, ‘We’ve got to put it down, I don’t feel good about this.’ I was with an assistant coach. He didn’t get back on. I ended up going to the game. He said, ‘I’ll meet you there, I’m not getting back on.’ ”
Lots of buy-in
Florida’s current players are in midst of the challenging offseason strength and conditioning program. It’s tough, but the players are buying in, Mullen said.
“I see our guys working,” he said. That’s what’s really exciting. I haven’t seen resistance, which is fantastic. I’m really excited about their buy-in.
“The work ethic and how they show up and the attitude they’ve had of working, I’m really excited about.”
Mullen and the rankings
Mullen has always been more into player evaluations and development than recruiting rankings. But he said he understands that the rankings are important at UF, and that the plan is to put together highly ranked classes every year.
“I have really high expectations for the program,” he said. “I’ll put my expectations up there against anybody. We want to build a program that’s going to compete for championships on a yearly basis.
“To do that, you need to do a great job recruiting, a great job in every aspect in recruiting and when they get on campus to develop the players to put them in a position to be successful.
“Hopefully, we continue to grow and continue to build, and every year, we have a better signing class than we had the year before.”
Percy’s new neighbor
Mullen and his wife recently rented a house in Gainesville, and one of their neighbors is former UF wide receiver Percy Harvin, who played for Mullen when he was the Gators’ offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer.
“(My wife) sees him walking his dogs every morning after she brings the kids to school,” Mullen said. “She sees him more than I do. But he’s back in town, living in Gainesville.
“It’s great to have him back around. Hopefully, we’re going to get him back in school and finish his degree.”