Florida Gators: Jacob Copeland needs to be “the guy” in 2021

The Florida Gators’ offense will look different in 2021, especially the pass catchers. They lose the 2020 John Mackey award winner and No. 1 prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft Kyle Pitts. They lose potential 1st round pick Kadarius Toney and another starting receiver and future NFL draft pick, Trevon Grimes. Those 3 pass catchers were the Gators’ top 3 pass catchers in 2020. So, who will step up and be the No. 1 wide receiver in 2021? It remains to be seen, but Florida needs redshirt junior receiver and former top recruit Jacob Copeland to step up and be “the guy.”

Copeland had 23 receptions for 435 yards and three scores in 2020. Those numbers aren’t bad, but Florida needs him to double his production, and then some.

Fellow wide receiver Justin Shorter had 25 catches for 268 yards and three scores last year, but Shorter is more of a possession receiver and doesn’t give you that big-play threat like Copeland. Florida will need Shorter to produce more this year, but they need to rely more on Copeland to take that No. 1 role.

Copeland flashes big-play potential, as he averaged an impressive 18.9 yards per reception last season. Copeland had a breakout game against LSU in 2020, catching five passes for 123 yards and a score. He’s shown he can be an impact player; he just needs to consistently do it in 2021.

One thing that should make Gators’ fans happy is that starting quarterback Emory Jones is close with Copeland. Their chemistry off the field should allow them to find it on the field as well. Both Copeland and Jones were in the same recruiting class and played together in the Under Armour All-American game.

Copeland told Zach Abolverdi of Gatorssports.com that, “He (Jones) told me like, ‘We could do something special here.’ Just knowing the type of duo we could be if we came together. And now that he’s the starting quarterback and I’m a starting receiver, I feel we’re going to be something major, like Kyle-to-Kyle last year. We got that type of connection.”

The Kyle Trask to Kyle Pitts connection was magical last year. Hearing Copeland has the confidence that the Jones-to-Copeland connection will be something to watch is an exciting thing to hear for Gators fans.

One thing that makes me believe that Jones-to-Copeland should be impressive next year is that, like Pitts (but obviously different than Pitts), Copeland has the versatility to line up all over. Florida will be able to use him in several ways to make sure he can make an impact every Saturday.

It took Toney four years to become an impact player at receiver, but it was worth the wait. I expect Copeland to have the same kind of jump this season. Regardless, even if I think this or not, Copeland needs to be “the guy” for Florida in 2021.