WVU football: Freshman WR loses redshirt, moves to top of depth chart
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - A little birdie told Travares Copeland that he'd get to start at wide receiver this Saturday.
"I didn't know until Twitter but you can't go off Twitter," said the true freshman, who plays wide receiver for West Virginia.
Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen announced the depth chart change at his weekly news conference and the media began disseminating the information on social networking sites.
Copeland received confirmation when he arrived at a team meeting later that afternoon.
Copeland (5-foot-10, 178 pounds) said he will start at the H receiver position when No. 17 WVU (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) hosts No. 4 Kansas State (6-0, 3-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday (WVAH) at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Copeland made one catch for five yards in last Saturday's 49-14 loss at Texas Tech. His participation burnt his redshirt - he didn't play in the first five games, but traveled with the team and prepared to play.
"They notified me (before the season) that I would be redshirted, but I was going to be the just-in-case player," Copeland said. "I was just waiting for a shot. Me and Tavon (Austin) play the same position, so I knew who was in front of me. I was just learning, watching."
Copeland will play in the slot opposite Austin, likely usurping fellow true freshman Jordan Thompson.
"We made the decision to play him and put him in a game, so we're obviously going to proceed and use him," Holgorsen said Tuesday. "I don't know if he's going to be a savior. It's not like our offense is that broke."
Copeland, a quarterback in high school, pushed for playing time during August camp but didn't grasp the offense, Holgorsen said.
"Hindsight we wish we would've pushed the envelope a little sooner," the second-year WVU coach said. "In camp we tried but he didn't pick up on it. The more he has played the better he has gotten, so we're going to play him."
Copeland threw for 1,096 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior at Treasure Coast High in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He was a second-team all-state utility player and was selected to play wide receiver in the Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast All-Star Game.
He knows he left his quarterbacking days back in the Sunshine State.
"It's out the window," Copeland said. "I got too strong. My shoulder, it's gone. It's gone."
He said making the position switch challenged him.
"The hardest thing was coming from quarterback to receiver," he said. "Adjusting to the blocking. I didn't block at all in high school; just dropped back and passed."
Copeland wanted to play immediately in college and have one season catching passes from Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Geno Smith. Even after the coaches informed him he'd redshirt, Copeland traveled with the team and anticipated the call from the coaches.
That came against Texas Tech when junior receiver Stedman Bailey left with an ankle injury and the offense sputtered. Copeland didn't care if it was the season opener or the season finale, he didn't want to keep his redshirt if he had an opportunity.
"I actually wanted to play," he said. "I still want to help contribute. It was tough at first. I was excited to go in."
Holgorsen said Bailey, the nation's leader in touchdown receptions with 14, is considered day-to-day. If Bailey plays, he'll be the outside receiver to the left with Copeland. If Bailey's ankle remains an issue, Copeland said he's comfortable at any receiver spot, although his size makes him an ideal fit for the slot.
"I'm short and fast and very shifty," he said. "Outside, I don't have a problem playing either. In camps I played outside a lot. I just know what I got to do."
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