Kelton Copeland was named wide receivers coach at the University of Iowa in February, 2016. Copeland joined the Hawkeye coaching staff after coaching at Northern Illinois the previous four seasons.
Following back-to-back narrow losses to open the 2020 season, Iowa won six straight games, all in Big Ten play, to complete the regular season. The Hawkeyes scored at least 26 points in each of the six wins. The winning streak included road wins at Minnesota, Penn State and Illinois, and trophy game victories over Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes were ranked 15th in the nation in the final CFP rankings and coaches poll, and 16th by the Associated Press.
Iowa has won three straight postseason games and 12 straight nonconference games. The Hawkeyes were selected to compete in the 2020 Music City Bowl, but that event was canceled. Iowa’s streak of eight straight bowl invitations matches the longest in school history.
Iowa won 47 games from 2015-19, the highest total in school history over any five-year period, and a total that ranked ninth nationally. Iowa won its final four games in 2019 and ranked 15th in the nation in the final Associated Press and coaches polls.
Iowa’s offense in 2020 led the Big Ten in red zone offense (0.917) and ranked second in scoring (31.8). The Hawkeyes scored at least 25 points in all six wins. Among wide receivers, senior Ihmir Smith-Marsette earned honorable mention all-Big Ten honors (25-345-4 TDs), while senior Brandon Smith recorded 23 receptions for 231 yards and two scores. Smith-Marsette totaled over 1,600 career receiving yards and ranks 10th with 3,415 career all-purpose yards. Smith totaled over 1,000 career receiving yards.
Smith-Marsette was selected in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft by Minnesota. Smith signed a free agent contract with Dallas immediately following the draft.
The Hawkeyes concluded the 2019 campaign with a 10-3 record following a 49-24 win over No. 22 Southern California in the Holiday Bowl. The three losses were all to ranked opponents by a combined 14 points. The Hawkeyes were 4-1 in trophy games for the third straight season.
Iowa completed the 2018 season with a 9-4 mark and a final ranking of 25th in the Associated Press national rankings. The Hawkeyes earned a 27-22 Outback Bowl win over No. 18 Mississippi State to close the season with three straight wins. The four losses came by a total of 23 points and all were decided in the final minutes of play. Iowa tied for second in the Big Ten West Division.
Iowa won eight games in both 2016 and 2017, including a Pinstripe Bowl victory to conclude the 2017 campaign. The Hawkeyes posted a perfect 12-0 regular season record in 2015, winning the West Division of the Big Ten Conference. Iowa participated in the 2016 Rose Bowl Game and the 2015 Big Ten Championship and ended the season in the top 10 in the final national rankings.
Along with winning its most recent three bowl games, Iowa also participated in the 2017 Outback Bowl, 2016 Rose Bowl Game, 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl and 2014 Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes have ranked in the final top 10 of both major polls five times in the past 19 seasons.
Iowa’s efficient offense in 2019 featured senior quarterback Nate Stanley completing just under 60 percent of his passes to a talented and deep wide receiver corp. Redshirt freshman Nico Ragaini (46-439) and Smith-Marsette (44-722) each had over 40 receptions, while Smith (37-439) and redshirt freshman Tyrone Tracy, Jr. both totaled over 35 receptions.
Iowa’s offense in 2018 also featured Stanley, who tossed 26 touchdown passes for the second straight year. The improved play of Iowa’s wide receivers played a big role as the Hawkeyes averaged 31.2 points per game, including a school-record 42.8 points per game in five Big Ten road games.
Senior wide receiver Nick Easley led Iowa with 52 receptions in 2018. He was named MVP of the 2019 Outback Bowl after grabbing eight receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Easley surpassed 100 career receptions and 1,000 career receiving yards in his two seasons under Copeland’s direction. He signed a free agent contract with Buffalo following the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Hawkeyes won eight games in 2017, including a 27-20 win over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl. In addition to the bowl victory the Hawkeyes won three of four rivalry trophy games while facing one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
Wide receiver Matt VandeBerg played his final two seasons under Copeland, returning from injury as a junior to record 28 receptions for 384 yards and two touchdowns in 2017. He had at least one reception in his final 32 games. His 134 career receptions rank 10th in school history and he ranks 15th in career receiving yards (1,686).
Copeland served as wide receivers coach and specials teams coordinator at Northern Illinois in 2016 after coaching the NIU running backs from 2013-15. Northern Illinois had a first team all-conference selection at both wide receiver and as return specialist while leading the conference in both kickoff returns and kickoff coverage in 2016.
In 2015, Northern Illinois running back Joel Bouagnon earned first team all-conference honors after rushing for 1,285 yards and 18 touchdowns. NIU averaged 190.1 rushing yards per game while playing in the conference title game for the sixth straight year and earning an eighth straight bowl invitation.
The Northern Illinois offense rushed for 3,488 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2014, as three running backs each averaged over five yards per carry. In 2013 the Huskies featured two players who each rushed for over 1,000 yards, including quarterback Jordan Lynch, a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Copeland joined the Northern Illinois staff after coaching wide receivers at South Dakota for two seasons (2011-12).
He was on the staff at Coffeyville Community College from 2007-10, coaching wide receivers (2008-10) and the defensive secondary (2007). Coffeyville advanced to the Region IV playoffs in three different seasons, while boasting one of the top offenses in the Jayhawk Conference in 2010. Copeland was promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Coffeyville prior to accepting the position at South Dakota.
Copeland coached defensive backs at Northwood University in 2006, helping Northwood reach the Division II playoffs. He was on the coaching staff at Emporia State University from 2003-05, coaching linebackers, running backs, and wide receivers, while also working with special teams. He also served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach.
As a player at Emporia State from 1999-02, Copeland was the starting quarterback and a team captain for three seasons. He set school records for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season and career, leading the team in total offense as both a junior and senior. He ranked third all-time in total offense and fourth in passing yards following his final season.
A native of Miami, Florida, Copeland attended Southridge High School. He graduated from Emporia State University in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation.
Copeland was born June 9, 1980. He is married to the former Bridgette Eldridge, and the couple have three daughters, Marlea, Devyn and Kabryn.
Copeland’s Coaching Career
School – Position, Years
Iowa – Wide Receivers, 2017-present
Northern Illinois – Wide Receivers, ST, 2016
Northern Illinois – Running Backs, 2013-15
South Dakota – Wide Receivers, 2011-12
Coffeyville CC – Wide Receivers, 2008-10
Coffeyville CC – Defensive Backs, 2007
Northwood University – Defensive Backs, 2006
Emporia State – Linebackers/Wide Receivers/Running Backs, 2003-05