UF’s Copeland staying engaged while recovering from injury

Florida wide receiver Jacob Copeland on the sideline during the annual Orange & Blue Game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on April 13. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Wide receiver Jacob Copeland, one of the highest-rated prospects in the Gators’ 2018 recruiting class, has been enduring a frustrating start to his Florida career.

He missed most of last season after injuring his knee early in preseason camp. He recovered in time to see limited playing time in the Idaho, Florida State and Michigan games, catching just one pass for 16 yards and returning a kickoff 26 years.

Then, when it looked like he had a chance to make a move toward significant playing time this spring, a nagging hamstring injury sidelined him for most of the spring, including last Saturday’s Orange & Blue Game.

Despite the frustration, which he has expressed numerous times on social media, Copeland has remained engaged and is working hard to put himself in a position to make an impact once he is healthy again, wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales said.

“He’s done a great job of learning,” Gonzales said. “His learning curve went (way up). Some guys when they get hurt, they drift away and they don’t always focus on the learning curve. I’ll tell you what. He’s done a fabulous job.

“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. But he’s done a great job of as far as staying positive and learning.”

Gonzales had a chance to coach Copeland in only a few practices during the spring. But he saw enough from the redshirt freshmen to know he has a chance to be a big-time playmaker when he is 100 percent healthy.

“One of the practices, I was blown away,” Gonzales said. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ It’s like when you’re a little kid and forget about that little toy that you haven’t had in a while. Oh, my gosh. He was explosive, in and out of breaks. Then he tweaked (his hamstring) a little bit again.”

Copeland’s probable No. 1 goal this summer is to get healthy, and stay healthy, so he can establish himself in preseason camp and become the impact player the coaches think he can be in the fall.