Cole Copeland, a versatile athlete who has made his mark on two sports at Bradley Central High School, has made a non-binding commitment to Tennessee-Chattanooga’s football Mocs.
Copeland, a Mr. Football Back of the Year semifinalist last season as a junior, is entering his third year as the starting quarterback for coach Damon Floyd’s Bears.
A superb talent on the gridiron and basketball court, Copeland also considered Mercer, Eastern Kentucky, Tennessee Tech. Mississippi State and Memphis, plus a few other bigger programs, expressed interest in Copeland’s talents.
“The camaraderie between the coaches and players at UTC was really a big thing,” Copeland said. “It felt right, it’s not too far away from home and it’s a good fit. My sister plays basketball at Florida and I know what a hassle it is going down there and watching her play. This will be easier on my family.”
With his decision in the rear view mirror, Copeland can concentrate on his senior season without having to worry about recruiting.
“It’s definitely a weight off my chest,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about talking to coaches and I know I’ve got a future with another great football program like UTC.”
Since Georgia Southern and Appalachian State left the Southern Conference, the Mocs have dominated the league.
Bradley Central coach Damon Floyd said he was happy with Copeland’s decision to extend his football career, but there’s one downside.
“I just have one more season to coach Cole,” Floyd said. “You don’t see many like him. Cole is special and I’m happy for him. I played at UTC and I’ll get to see him play quite a bit.”
There’s no escaping what Copeland has meant to Floyd’s Bears.
In 2015, Copeland led the Chattanooga area by passing for 2,489 yards and 26 touchdowns, with only eight interceptions, while competing in the state’s largest classification (Class 6A).
As a sophomore, the 6-3, 200-pound Copeland threw for 2,290 yards and 18 touchdowns. He rushed for 887 yards and 12 scores, finishing with 3,177 total yards of offense, averaging 288.8 yards per game.
“Cole has meant a ton to our football program,” Floyd said. “His brother, Bryce, was a four-year starter and Cole is a three-year starter. It’s really hard to put into words what Cole and his family has meant to Bradley’s athletic program.”
Copeland’s sister, Brooke, was a standout player for the girls’ basketball team for four years and is currently playing at the University of Florida. Bryce Copeland, Cole’s brother, played quarterback and basketball for the Bears. Brian Copeland, Cole’s father, also played quarterback at Bradley Central.
Bryce Copeland put up 8,205 career yards, 6,421 passing and 1,784 rushing. His career total was the highest total ever in Southeast Tennessee and his passing yardage ranks eighth all-time in the state and his all-purpose yards are No. 7. He signed a basketball scholarship to Lee University.
Basketball was another path to college for Cole, but he figured out pretty soon he was better suited to play football.
“I felt early on that would be the case,” he said. “There are big dudes in basketball, like 6-8 or 7-footers. The average size of a quarterback is about 6-4. I’m going to be better off playing football.”
No matter which sport Copeland chose, Floyd believes he has the one trait that sets him apart.
“Cole is the ultimate competitor,” the coach said. “He’s smart, tough and strong. He’s a great athlete.
“He was being recruited at the highest level and he liked UTC because they’re winning conference championships and close to playing for national championships.”
(Reach Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)