Copeland: Bucs' Deep Threat
There are streaks and there are streaks, but Bucs receiver Horace Copeland is in a zone of his own. The past four passes aimed at Copeland, the mercurial Miami rookie, have turned into touchdowns. Copeland came off the bench in the third quarter to help Tampa Bay build a 31-3 lead Sunday against Atlanta by catching scoring passes of 60 and 44 yards on consecutive plays from scrimmage.
That performance, combined with two receptions for TDs in the Bucs' 37-14 loss to Green Bay last week, has helped establish Copeland as perhaps the first legitimate deep threat for Tampa Bay in years. On the season, Copeland has just seven receptions. But four have been for touchdowns and they have totaled 268 yards - a 38.3-yardaverage.
"He's definitely a deep threat," quarterback Craig Erickson said. "It goes back to the day he was drafted. I watched the draft until (the third round) when Lamar Thomas was taken by us and I was very excited. Then I looked in the paper the next day and saw Thomas' and Copeland's head shots together. I read a little further and found out we drafted him as well. I was pretty ecstatic because I know he has a lot of potential and brings another dimension to our team."
Thomas, who was the Bucs' third-round pick out of Miami, was considered the more polished of the two Hurricane receivers. But it was Thomas who dropped three passes against Green Bay and Copeland who twice beat Falcons Pro Bowl cornerback Deion Sanders. On Copeland's first TD Sunday, Sanders was looked off by Erickson and left Copeland's coverage to safety Scott Case, who was beaten over the top for a 60-yard bomb.
On the Bucs' next snap from scrimmage, Copeland faked running a post route and Sanders bit on it. Erickson delivered a 44-yard strike as his favorite target broke outside.
Copeland, who punctuated the TDs with back flips, praised Sanders. "I respect him and everything," Copeland said. "But everybody looks at us and says `ya'll are rookies.' We don't have to wait for it, if Sam will let us loose like he did today. I'm not bragging. I respect Deion Sanders and he is one of the best corners in the league. But anybody can get beat at any given time. I take my hat off to Deion Sanders. He's a great player and everything, but he's only human."
So why haven't Bucs fans seen more of Copeland, the fastest man on the club with a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash? "It may be an example of poor coaching," coach Sam Wyche joked. "He has great speed. Players know he's going deep and cannot stay with him."
Rick Stroud, The St.Petersburg Times 1993