Full circle: J.C. Copeland to bring high-level experience as Troup’s new defensive coordinator

Published 5:59 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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J.C. Copeland is climbing up the coaching ladder. The former Troup defensive line coach has been promoted to defensive coordinator for the Tigers and will be calling plays for the first time in his coaching career.

“I’m excited for the opportunity. I feel like I can get the guys to play for me,” Copeland said. “I know the defense, I’ve been running it since I played a Troup, really since I played at Manchester.”

This is truly a full-circle moment for Copeland. Before going off the enjoy a stellar collegiate career at LSU and a brief stint in professional football (including with the Dallas Cowboys), he was an All-State player at Troup. After spending the first two seasons of his high school career at Manchester High, Copeland transferred to Troup and made a big impact in his final two seasons as a standout defensive lineman.

“I was the no. 19 defensive end in the whole country my senior year, I was an All-American at LSU, I won defensive player of the year and hold the sack record here,” Copeland said. “This opportunity is very special not just because I’m an alumni here, but because it’s a great school with a great football program.”

With his varied experience at all levels of the game, Copeland brings a wealth of knowledge to the sideline. Despite setting the Troup sack record, Copeland’s physique and power made for a perfect battering ram for the LSU offense, where he made the switch from defensive line to fullback. 

Copeland is an intimidating presence in any room he steps into as he looks like he could still play.

Copeland played the game with a physical, hard-nosed style and brought that same sort of energy as a coach.

“We are going to play with tenacity,” Copeland said. “Off the field, I am a soft person, but on the field, I have an edge if you know what I mean. I want opposing offenses to hate lining up against us.”

Copeland will have to do some retooling on the defensive side of the ball as the team lost quite possibly its most talented defensive class ever this year, headlined by Clemson safety Noah Dixon and UCF linebacker Qua Birdsong.

“Here we do a good job of developing players from when they come in as eighth graders,” Copeland said. “We do a great job of development. So they have already seen the system. They know the system. We go through it every spring, every offseason, we rotate them in through practice, so they get experience that way. But game experience is a whole different thing. So they know what to do now. It’s just a matter of getting them game-time experience.”

This will be Troup’s third defensive coordinator in as many seasons, but there will be some continuity. Copeland has been on staff for eight years and will be running the same defense that Troup has been running under head coach Tanner Glisson. That does not mean Copeland won’t add his own wrinkles and additions to the base defense.

“This is a revolving door. You can see it in college football too, there’s gonna be opportunities where people want to go up and move up the ladder a little bit,” he said. “I’m going to run the same defense, but I will bring my own flair.”

Copeland and Glisson share quite a strong bond. The two have known each other for nearly two decades and Glisson was the main reason Copeland got involved with coaching.

When Copeland saw the end of his playing days creeping up in the rearview mirror, he was looking for a way to stay focused and involved with the game and found that at the school he graduated from.

“I came up here to see my sister one day and I heard over the PA announcement that Glisson was named the head coach and happened to run into him in the halls,” Copeland said. “We started talking and I asked him if things didn’t work out with playing could I come back here and coach and he said come on. I got hurt again and within a week or so I was here coaching.”

Whether it was fate, circumstance or fortune, Copeland has found his way back to Troup High. And after almost a decade of coaching there, it still feels like home.