Dawg-ed pursuit

Georgia said he was too short. Tennessee said he was tall enough and offered a scholarship, which was accepted. Go inside to get the latest on J.C. Copeland who participated in Camp Kiffin on Monday.

Now the Bulldogs have reconsidered but J.C. Copeland says he won't.

Copeland, a super-quick defensive line prospect from Troup County High in LaGrange, Ga., grew up a Georgia fan but committed to the Vols on May 19 after being snubbed by the Dawgs.

The prospect of seeing the in-state product slip away to an SEC East rival, however, suddenly has his home-state university expressing renewed interest.

"J.C. told me during lunch that Georgia has contacted him and has invited him to their camp coming up in a couple of weeks," Troup County head coach Bubba Jeter said during a break in today's Tennessee camp at Haslam Field. "Georgia is now showing interest in him."

The interest no longer appears to be mutual, however.

"After just talking with him a few minutes ago, I think J.C. is dead set on being a Tennessee Volunteer," Jeter said. "I don't see him venturing off in any direction. He told me he's had a great time up here (Knoxville). He loves coach (Ed) Orgeron, who's going to be his position coach. He loves (defensive coordinator) Monte Kiffin. Lance Thompson's the guy that recruited him and, of course, there's (head coach) Lane Kiffin. He just thinks the world of all those guys. They've really made him feel special."

Vol coaches are making Copeland feel special by not making an issue of his height. At 6-feet and 258 pounds, he's roughly the same size as Indianapolis Colts' all-pro defensive end Dwight Freeney.

"Several schools mentioned being concerned with J.C.'s height," Jeter said. "But Monte Kiffin said, 'I don't care if you're 5-5 if you can play football.' That makes a kid really feel special. They (UT coaches) looked past his height and saw the heart he has, the motor he has and the passion he has. I think that's what they've been most impressed with."

That, and Copeland's explosive quickness. He has lost some straight-line speed since bulking up from 230 pounds last fall to 258 this spring, as a 4.9 clocking in the 40-yard dash at UT's camp attests. His short-range burst remains absolutely amazing, however, as he displayed during some one-on-one pass rushing drills earlier today.

"Two-thirty to 258 pounds is a pretty good leap," Jeter said. "Just watching some of the drills, though, it doesn't look like he's lost any of his quickness."

With one year of high school ball remaining, there's a chance Copeland will put on another 20 pounds before enrolling at Tennessee in August of 2010.

"A lot of schools that are recruiting him have talked about moving him inside (to tackle) and getting him to 275 or 280 pounds," Jeter said. "If you look at his frame, he could hold it. I'd hate to think about trying to block him at 285 pounds. That'd be hard to do."

Although Georgia now appears intent on prying Copeland away from Tennessee, Jeter simply doesn't see that happening.

"Georgia has always recruited our school hard," the Troup County coach said. "I'm sure they're going to continue to recruit him but I feel like J.C. is a man of his word who will stick with his commitment – whether USC or Notre Dame or whoever comes after him.

"He's really been sold on this program and what they're trying to get done here. I think he's found himself a home."


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