Marquise Copeland was already making a name for himself as a high-level college football prospect when his coaches decided to switch things up last fall.
The longtime defensive end was moved to the middle linebacker position at Bedford (Ohio) High School for the first time in his career. Coach Sean Williams said the results were "amazing."
"It was really fun to watch him go from a player who has always (played) down to playing up and making that adjustment," Williams told the Herald-Leader. "He's a very explosive individual. Very quick and very fast and really plays the game at a high level. His knowledge of the football game is what allows him to play so well. He's a very fast learner."
College coaches have been quick to jump into his recruitment.
Kentucky was one of the first schools to offer him a scholarship, and Copeland was one of several recruiting targets at Commonwealth Stadium for last month's Blue-White Spring Game.
Williams said Copeland enjoyed that visit and will return to Lexington for one of UK's camps in June.
His stellar play during his junior season has put college coaches in a bind. Some see him as a defensive end at the next level. Some think he's better suited for linebacker. Many schools are recruiting him as both. And others — like Kentucky — still haven't decided where he fits in.
"I just think he's a helluva athlete. He will play at whatever position he's at," said Williams, a former Ohio University star who was briefly in the NFL. "He can play, and he can dominate the position. Not just play it. Dominate the position."
Many observers consider Kentucky the current favorite in Copeland's recruitment, though Williams said his player is still wide open in the process and will take many visits this summer in addition to the second trip to Lexington.
Copeland — a 6-foot-3, 230-pound prospect — has several offers from the Big Ten, and Williams said that Ohio State is among the major programs that has not offered but is keeping a close eye on the recruitment.
The coach did acknowledge that UK was "one of his favorites" right now.
Like many Ohio kids who have been targeted by the Cats lately, recruiting coordinator and Youngstown native Vince Marrow has played an integral part in the Wildcats' pursuit of Copeland.
"If it wasn't for Coach Marrow, he wouldn't even be considering Kentucky," Williams said. "He's a guy who he really likes, and that's the whole thing. The kids identify more with coaches than they do with a school. A school is just bricks and steel. The people are who they go for."
Whoever gets Copeland will be adding a highly coachable player and a high-character person, according to Williams. He said his mother plans to move to the college town of Copeland's choice, adding that she has friends and family in the Lexington area.
Williams repeatedly referred to Copeland as a "student of the game" who is highly respected by the Bedford High community, students and teachers alike.
College coaches obviously were drawn in by his playing ability, but they're already picking up on that attitude.
"They love his explosiveness," Williams said. "They love the way he tackles. They love the way he can play multiple positions. And they love the fact that he's willing to learn all of those positions. When they sit down and talk to him, they're really surprised about his knowledge of the game.
"He's a phenomenal kid. We had coaches leave here today and say, 'I could spend all day with that kid.' They're impressed more about him being a high-character guy than being a great football player. Football only goes so far. Character is going to take you forever."
Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com.