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Arkansas recruit Kemari Copeland leads Iowa Western to junior college national title with Sam Pittman in attendance

Copeland listed Arkansas as one of his top eight choices in early November

LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS - Iowa Western completed a repeat title run with a dominating 61-14 win over East Mississippi in the Division I Junior College National Championship Game Wednesday night at War Memorial Stadium.. The Reivers defeated Hutchinson (Kan.) 31-0 in last season's championship matchup. 

Iowa Western's offense compiled over 500 yards, led by former University of Arkansas – Monticello quarterback Hunter Watson who completed 17 of his 26 pass attempts for 204 yards and three touchdowns. Watson also rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.  

The Reiver defense was ferocious, particularly up front, as they held the Lions to just 56 yards rushing and 1.9 yards per carry. 

"We have 10 guys on our D-Line who play, and we do not care whether it is a 2 or a 3 that is in," Iowa Western head coach Scott Strohmeier said. "We felt like if we could stop the run and make them one-dimensional then we would be in really good shape."

One of those main contributors is redshirt sophomore Kemari Copeland, who is one of the top JUCO targets on Arkansas' radar. Razorbacks head coach Sam Pittman was in attendance to watch Copeland and the Reivers earn their third all-time national championship. 

Copeland, 6-foot-3, 285 pounds, is rated as high as the 10th-best overall 2024 JUCO prospect by, while On3 has him at No. 14. The Virginia Beach (Va.) native signed with Army out of high school, where he played for the previous two seasons before transferring to Iowa Western. 

This fall, Copeland collected 38 tackles, 21 of those solo with 9 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, as well as recovered a fumble. 

Arkansas made the cut when Copeland dropped his Top 8 schools on Nov. 2, along with Arizona State, Auburn, Central Florida, Kansas, NC State, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. 

"Everything really started in October, I got an offer from Tennessee and then they all started coming in," Copeland said. "Just recently I started narrowing the list down and Arkansas was one that I was leaning towards. I went on an official visit a couple of weeks ago, my family and I really enjoyed it."

As the saying goes, "If Momma ain't happy, no one is happy," and Copeland's mother, Keketrius, especially loved what she experienced on The Hill.

"My mom actually calls me a lot to talk about Arkansas," Copeland said. "We came to watch them practice, and she really loved how genuine the coaching staff was. 

"That is one of the most genuine staffs that I have been around and my mom definitely talks about them a lot."

Copeland ahas also received a vast amount of support from the Arkansas fanbase via social media.

"I have felt a lot of love from them," Copeland said. "After my visit, people started following me on Instagram, so definitely have felt a lot of love from Arkansas."

While Arkansas may not seem like an appealing destination on the heels of a 4-8 season that included just one conference victory, Copeland believes in the vision the staff has to get the program back on the upswing. 

"They have said how they are on a steady front and if they brought me in it would be very good for the program," Copeland said. "Also, just installing new things and I can see that the program is on the uprise and with all the things they are doing I could see Arkansas being on the forefront."

Copeland has also been impressed with the turnaround on defense led by first-year defensive coordinator Travis Williams. Under Williams' direction, the Hogs went from 101st in total defense in 2022 to 48th this year. Copeland added that he was very impressed by defensive line coach Deke Adams. 

"I really like the defensive coaches," Copeland said. "I sat down with Coach Adams talking X's and O's and he showed me some of the schemes they run and where he'd want me on the defense."  

Copeland also added that most programs are recruiting him to play a 3-technique, or defensive tackle, but Arkansas wants him to compete on the edge at defensive end. 

Copeland plans on taking what could be his final visits, actually this weekend, and a decision will likely be made shortly after that. 

"It is kind of up in the air right now," Copeland said. "I will go to NC State Thursday, then Virginia Tech after that this weekend so those will probably be my last visits. 

"If I can fit another visit in, we will see, but as far as right now right after Virginia Tech is probably when I will narrow it down and talk with my parents to see what we like."

– Kyle Sutherland | @k_sutherlandAR