When it comes to quarterbacks, the state of Connecticut has produced quite a few FBS prospects over the last few years. In 2018, Will Levis landed at Penn State. In the Class of 2019, Taisun Phommachanh, the 4th ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country, landed at Clemson. In this year’s class, Drew Pyne committed early to Notre Dame, Tyler Van Dyke has committed to Miami (FL) and Trey Dawson has an offer from UMass.
Looking ahead to the Class of 2021, there are up to four quarterbacks from the state that will likely have an opportunity at a high-profile school; Xavier Copening holds offers from UConn, Boston College & Syracuse, Jack Brandon has an offer from Ohio State, Tyler Phommachanh has a UConn offer and Daron Bryden continues to set records at Bloomfield High.
Based on current rankings and evaluations, Copening is the highest rated of the four in the class of 2021, coming in as the 13th ranked, dual-threat quarterback nationally according to 247sports, a ranking that is only surely to rise over the next 15-months.
Last week, Copening talked about his junior season, the recruiting process and his thoughts on UConn football. But before we dive into the recruiting aspect of the Avon native, it’s best to get to know him as a person because Copening possesses the championship mentality you want in someone representing your program off the field, just as much as he does on.
Case in point?
“One thing people may not know about me is I advocate for special education and work with the Special Olympics for kids when I can,” he said. “I am hoping to get a degree in special education.”
During our interview, Copening talked about a phrase that has been gaining popularity across the country, easier summed up by the following:
‘Spread the word to end the word.’ Count this writer as someone who was quickly humbled by Copening’s passion and his focus on special education. Reminder, he’s only a junior in high school.
On the field, Copening has been turning heads since he began playing football. The game teaches many lessons and he has taken them all in.
“Football is a great sport,” he said. “It allows a group of individuals to come together and make a family, build bonds and friendships that last forever. I’ts also a chance to showcase your talent and grow into a productive leader in your community.”
“The game has done so much for me as a person and my growth,” he continued. “It teaches you life skills that will help you in the future and there is nothing in this world like throwing or scoring a touchdown.”
A junior at Avon Old Farms, Copening is on a roster littered with top football talent, many of whom will go on to play football at the highest collegiate level. It’s something he believes will only help him when he arrives on a college campus.
“Playing with other D1 bound players makes you stronger and better,” he confirmed. “It improves your skills and pushes you further.”
At AOF, Copening plays alongside another Class of 2021 quarterback, Tyler Phommachanh, so he has had the experience of being on a roster with other talents at his position. Under the two players, AOF made the NEPSAC championship.
“Our season is going great,” Copening said, mentioning he started in the win over Hotchkiss. “One of our goals as a team was to make it to the championship, which we did, but unfortunately we lost to Suffield Academy.”
As a quarterback, he is always working to become better.
“This year, I was working on developing my skills as a leader and passing out of the pocket,” he said.
His ability earned him an opportunity to play for Team USA.
“Playing for the USA National team was an awesome experience,” he said. “Learning from different coaches from all over the country and representing your country against different countries was amazing. Building bonds with different players from all over the USA was an experience I will never forget.”
“Leading the USA team onto the field at AT&T Stadium was a dream come true,” he added. “I thank USA football for that opportunity. We went 2-0 against international competition and hopefully there is more to come there.”
As mentioned, Copening currently has three offers, the first of which came on Father’s Day, something that was special in his household, what he called ‘my present to my dad.’ It also came with a bit of adversity as when he was on his was to that camp that earned him an offer, he and his dad got into a car accident. He ended up arriving late, but still ultimately earned the offer.
When it comes to the decision making process, he is going to lean on his parents and prayer. What is most important to him?
“[The place that] presents the best opportunity for me academically and athletically,” he said. “I want to win and I want to do something no other quarterback has done. I want to leave my mark as a leader and as a person, wherever I go.”
Where does his home state school fit into that decision-making process?
“UConn has a great staff,” Copening said. “Getting to know Coach Edsall and learning more about the programs’ direction has been great. I love the facilities and culture they are trying to build. I’m a hometown kid. I really do appreciate the love they have shown me.”
Saturday marks the final AAC game for the Huskies before they transition into their first season as an independent. How does that impact Copening’s thinking?
“For me it doesn’t really matter,” he said. “We will still play football games and my dad said we were an independent before in the 2000’s and we did well then. Notre Dame is also an independent so it all depends on the schedule. We have to be successful.”
Copening has been to UConn several times and clearly looks at the Huskies program fondly. When asked if the top recruits across the state have ever talked about all choosing to stay home and changing the Huskies program for the better, he said this.
“CT has a lot of great talent, and as a hometown kid you always take pride in where you came from,” he said. “Yes, a few of us have talked about that, but it has to be a joint effort. We will have to see.”
As we finished, Copening mentioned a saying that his dad always tells him, ‘iron sharpens iron.’ He didn’t understand it when he was younger, but fully gets it now.
“Get better every day,” he said.
As his junior season comes to an end, Copening will look to do just that. Don’t be surprised if he announces his commitment before he begins his senior year.