Now that school is back in session, the lone indicator around the Sunshine State that fall is here, it's time to check in on how Manatee County athletes are performing at the college level.
University of Louisville redshirt senior Damian Copeland is picking up where he left off last fall. Through two games, Copeland has hauled in nine catches for 130 yards and three touchdowns. The eighth-ranked Cardinals boast a Heisman Trophy hopeful in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and Copeland was his favorite target in the season-opening victory over Ohio University. In that game, Copeland snagged six receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
Over at the University of Florida, former Southeast do-everything star Brian Poole has played in both games for the Gators. Poole has recorded three tackles (two unassisted) from his cornerback position.
Then there's Western Kentucky, a program home to several Manatee County players thanks to former head coach Willie Taggart (Manatee High alum) and former assistant coach Raymond Woodie (Palmetto and Bayshore head coach).
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Former Gator and prized recruit Jonathan Dowling (Southeast) joined Leon Allen (Manatee), Willie McNeal (Braden River), Daqual Randall (Palmetto) and Terran Williams (Southeast) in getting their names on the statsheet for the Hilltoppers.
Dowling has 11 solo tackles (14 total), a pass breakup, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in two games. Randall (five tackles), Williams (two tackles) and McNeal (two tackles) round out the area Hilltoppers on defense. McNeal has also shown his versatility with a team-leading nine catches for 100 yards. Allen carried the ball 23 times for 150 rushing yards, while recording
five catches for 24 yards. Allen also has two rushing touchdowns.
The Hilltoppers upset Kentucky in the first week, 35-26, before dropping a 52-20 decision to another SEC team, Tennessee this past Saturday.
Palmetto native and Manatee High alum Courtney McDonald has impressed in four matches for Auburn University. The redshirt senior middle blocker has 14 kills, seven blocks and six digs, and the Tigers captured three victories out of their four matches on the season.
Recent IMG Academy grad Juan Veloza placed fourth individually for the Towson men's golf team at the 2013 Navy Fall Invitational. Veloza fired a 65 for a 139 total en route to leading Towson to a program-record 274 and the tournament's team title.
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7017. Follow him on Twitter @Jason_Dill