UNC Football Class of 2016 Signee: LB J.B. Copeland

Inside Carolina takes a closer look at the Tar Heel signee.

BIO: Enrolled at UNC in January • Ranked seventh in the country among junior colleges with 11.6 tackles per game • In 10 games, he recorded 116 tackles, five sacks, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and broke up a pass • Played his freshman season at New Mexico State University where he saw action in eight games and started six • Two-year starter at linebacker for Southlake (Texas) Carroll High School before attending NMSU • As a senior, played in just three games, recording 41 tackles, an interception and a pass break up • Was in on 90 tackles, 45 solo, eight sacks and three interceptions with one of those for a touchdown as a junior at Southlake Carroll 

LEAD UNC RECRUITER: John Papuchis

RECRUITMENT: The first time Copeland went through the recruiting process (as a member of the 2013 class) a knee injury left New Mexico State as his lone option. Despite believing he was better than the Sun Belt Conference, he signed with the Aggies. He proved his beliefs correct by starting as a true freshman. Thus, he looked to the JuCo ranks (i.e. Navarro) as a path to a Power 5 school. A couple of days after UNC offered him in December, he accepted sight unseen. Shortly thereafter he visited Chapel Hill and finalized his enrollment.

WHY CAROLINA: “I love it there. There’s not one bad thing I can say about the place.  … (Coach Papuchis) said that they're bringing me in for a reason -- that's to play. And he wants me to compete to start. They really need a veteran presence at linebacker and that's what they're going to be missing next year... He was excited about it and I'm as excited about it, too."

EVALUATION: Copeland is a big, experienced, competitive inside linebacker. He does his best work patiently tracking a ball carrier out of the backfield and then closing quickly. But, he’s also efficient blitzing – especially when given a clear path to his target. Before contact he consistently squares up his target and then delivers a technically sound tackle.

UNC LB COACH PAPUCHIS: “We felt like in this recruiting class we needed to go out and get guys that had the potential to play early and J.B. is certainly one of those guys. He’s a little bit older, he has Division I playing experience, so him coming in and being able to make that transition mid-year is going to be huge and hopefully it puts him in a position where he can help this football team this year.”

INSIDE THE COMMITMENT: When Shakeel Rashad and Jeff Schoettmer exhausted their eligibility after this past season, North Carolina not only lost two of its top three tacklers – the Tar Heels’ defense also lost veteran leadership from the linebacker position. To compensate, the UNC staff looked to the JuCo ranks … Read the full subscriber-only report


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