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Marquise Copeland: An Appreciation

Copeland carried the Bearcats on defense in 2017 and then helped lead it to glory in 2018. Those were just two chapters in a brilliant career.

Tulane v Cincinnati Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Career Numbers

  • 187 total tackles
  • 8.5 sacks
  • 21.0 tackles for loss
  • 4 passes defended
  • 2 forced fumbles

To the untrained eye, among the many talented defensive players on the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2018, defensive tackle Marquise Copeland got a little bit lost in the shuffle. However, the more initiated are aware of just how important he was to the team and the defense both last season and during his entire career at UC.

A consensus three-star recruit from Cleveland, Copeland became a Bearcat as one of the top 40 prospects in the state of Ohio and used that potential to earn playing time right away. As a freshman in 2015, he played in 10 games while providing depth on the defensive line. His path to more playing time was blocked by upperclassmen, which was to be expected, but he still managed 15 total tackles, including one for loss.

That cup of coffee launched a stellar sophomore campaign during which Copeland tallied 59 tackles, including 4.5 for loss. His hard-hitting ability came through as well, with two forced fumbles, while he played with active hands at the line, making quarterbacks second guess when throwing low over the middle. During that 2016 season, he also proved his durability, appearing in all 12 games in a pretty disappointing season for the Bearcats overall.

Copeland’s progression continued into 2017, when he finally took hold of a permanent starting job. Over the course of 12 starts, he improved in just about every way imaginable, setting career-highs that still stand in total tackles (63), solo tackles (31), assisted tackles (32) and tackles for loss (8.0). Under the tutelage of the new coaching staff brought in by Luke Fickell, he also racked up 3.5 sacks and was an honorable mention for All-American Athletic Conference recognition.

For his senior season, Copeland shared more of the limelight on defense with guys like Cortez Broughton, James Wiggins and Bryan Wright, but he just went about his business and produced another stellar campaign. While his tackle numbers dipped a bit (50 total), he recorded similar marks in tackles for loss (7.5) and sacks (4.0), with the latter his career-best. He also had four quarterback hits and two pass breakups. It was clear that those in the know were watching because that earned him second-team all-conference honors before he ended his collegiate rise with a win in the Military Bowl.

NCAA Football: East Carolina at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Best of the Best

Dec. 24, 2015 vs. San Diego State

Copeland’s first bowl appearance was not particularly positive for the Bearcats, who were routed 42-7 in the Hawaii Bowl. However, Copeland did himself proud, with three tackles, including his first career stop for loss.

Sept. 24, 2016 vs. Miami (Ohio)

This marked Copeland’s first career game with a sack. He added two total tackles for loss and four overall stops, not to mention a forced fumble.

Oct. 29, 2016 at Temple

A lot of guys rack up big tackle totals by supplementing a few solo efforts with assists. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s also nothing wrong with tallying eight tackles all by yourself like Copeland did against the Owls.

Sept. 16, 2017 at Miami (Ohio)

Copeland made life difficult for the RedHawks most times the Bearcats faced them. This was his best Battle for the Victory Bell performance, as he amassed seven total tackles, including three for loss and a sack.

Oct. 21, 2017 vs. SMU

This may not have been an all-conference type effort, but any team would take five tackles and a sack from their defensive tackle.

Nov. 10, 2017 vs. Temple

Copeland stepped up his game against the Owls once more, managing seven tackles, including two for loss and a sack.

Nov. 25, 2017 vs. UConn

Even if the Bearcats’ season ended poorly, Copeland finished strong, posting a career-high 10 tackles against the Huskies.

Sept. 22, 2018 vs. Ohio University

This game required all hands on deck and Copeland came through with seven tackles, including one for loss.

Oct. 27, 2018 at SMU

Copeland handed the Mustangs four tackles, including two for loss and a sack, as well as a pass deflection.

Nov. 23, 2018 vs. East Carolina

For the first time in his career, Copeland had multiple sacks in a game (2.0).

Dec. 31, 2018 vs. Virginia Tech

It may have taken four years, but Copeland finally reached the summit of a bowl victory and he played great to get there, piling up seven tackles.

A Final Goodbye

For four years, Copeland made sure the Bearcats were not completely disastrous on defense. In 2018, he got all the help he could possibly need, as his high tide helped raise the boats of his teammates. Replacing a player like Copeland will not be easy. He hit the ground running at UC and produced results every year of his career. Bearcats fans know that that career was a fantastic one and, after examining his four years, hopefully those outside of the fandom do as well.