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Gators signing day notebook: Mullen praises conviction of new receiver

By Joey Knight
Published: February 7, 2018 Updated: February 7, 2018 at 10:49 PM
New University of Florida coach Dan Mullen's inaugural signing class featured 19 players. (JOEY KNIGHT | Times)

He may not have signed a five-star prospect in this recruiting cycle, but Dan Mullen was a heaping a constellation of stars on new Gators WR Jacob Copeland.

If for no other reason than the poise and conviction Copeland brandished Wednesday.

By now, most have seen the viral clip of Copeland's signing day announcement at Pensacola Escambia High. Upon announcing his decision to attend Florida, his mother — seated to his right and bedecked in an Alabama sweatshirt and orange-and-white Tennessee beanie — promptly got up and walked off camera.

Video of 4* WR Jacob Copeland committing to Florida, his mother wearing rival gear walking off live on ESPN pic.twitter.com/uZcXO2fO0w

— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) February 7, 2018

When asked by an ESPN announcer who had walked off, Copeland acknowledged it was his mother, and remained calm. She ultimately walked back and hugged her son, who de-committed from UF last fall and later visited Tennessee and Alabama.

"Over the last 72 hours in talking to him every time, I think he's had a lot of stress put on him, a lot of people trying to pull him in different directions," Mullen said. "The one thing I always told him is, 'Hey, you've got to block that out. You've got to see and know what's best for you and your future.'

"When he sat down, and said he did a lot of soul-searching and a lot of praying, and he found that he knew in his heart this is where he belonged, that's what you want out of this process. A lot of people look at recruiting as a game, and it's not. You're talking about young peoples' lives and their futures."

CLEAN SLATE FOR REINSTATED PLAYERS: Mullen said the Gators' four players recently reinstated after a season-long suspension won't be judged by their past, but suggested they can afford no more missteps.

RB Jordan Scarlett, WR Rick Wells, and linebackers James Houston and Ventrell Miller recently were cleared to return to the program after missing all of the 2017 season while being investigated for their roles in an alleged credit-card-fraud case. The case resulted in nine total suspensions.

"I did my research and studied with it, and we got through the semester. I wanted to see where everybody was academically and how seriously they took the responsibilities of being a member of this football program," Mullen said.

"And one of the things I talked to 'em about is, 'Obviously you're gonna be held to a slightly different standard because of what's happened in the past. But I'm not gonna judge you for what you've done in the past. That all happened before I got here.

'I am gonna judge you though, on what happens in the future. And I will tell you you're probably gonna be held to a higher standard not just in my office, but to other people outside…because of what's happened.'"

COACH 'COPTER: Mullen made a Twitter splash recently when iPhones caught him making a couple of area recruiting stops via helicopter. Though hardly a new phenomenon in the college coaching ranks (as this story indicates), Mullen was asked about it Wednesday.

Many college coaches visit campus everyday, but today IMG Academy had a new kind of touchdown �� as Coach Dan Mullen arrived via helicopter pic.twitter.com/hRpFDDxv11

— IMG Academy (@IMGAcademy) January 31, 2018

"They were saying that was a big deal. I've been doing that for years," he said.

"There's such a small window for me as a head coach to get around and see everybody. And you want to get from one place and jump around from place to place. It's something I imagine in the future that we'll continue doing and probably do even more…especially around the state.

"If you're in a metropolitan area, I'd rather be visiting with high school coaches than sitting in traffic."

ODDS AND ENDS: Mullen acknowledged he recently has seen former Gators All-American WR Percy Harvin, residing in the same neighborhood where the Mullens are renting a house. Harvin retired from the NFL for the second time last March. "Hopefully we're gonna get him back in school and finish his degree," Mullen said. … Mullen had no update on transfer receivers Van Jefferson (Ole Miss) and Trevon Grimes (Ohio State), both of whom are trying to gain eligibility for 2018. … Mullen said he doesn't expect to have 85 scholarship players next fall. "But that's partly by design," he said, "that now we're going to have a full year of this staff to go recruit, and that we weren't going to go take players that we weren't sure would fit our program just to fill a roster spot."