Finding the right fit for your college football program isn't just about what happens on the field, but off it as well. Today, Ohio State added a key piece. How will that commitment impact the Buckeyes?
Ohio State landed a commitment this evening from yet another talented Virginia linebacker when Dinwiddie four-star K'Vaughan Pope pledged his services to the Buckeyes during a ceremony at his high school on Friday evening.
Let's take a look at what Pope — the No. 168 prospect overall in the Class of 2018 — brings to Columbus.
ON THE FIELD
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Pope is an extremely aggressive and athletic prospect. He's effective against both the run and the pass, reads and reacts quickly and has great closing speed.
"His nose for the ball is exceptional," Dinwiddie running backs coach Dequan Coles told Eleven Warriors. "Turn on our game film and he's always around the football. Whether he's making a tackle, causing a fumble, scooping a fumble or an interception, he's always there.
"Going against him every day in practice is fun," Coles continued. "He's one of those guys who refuses to lose, which makes us that much better on offense going against him because we won't see anybody with his abilities all year. I always tell my guys to keep their heads on a swivel when crossing his path. Makes it much easier for my guys on Friday nights."
As with any high school athlete, Pope has room to improve, too. Ohio State linebackers coach Bill Davis watched his film during April's visit and gave him some pointers on his technique.
"[Davis] said he needs to play lower and get better at taking on blocks," Coles said.
Pope finished his junior campaign with 135 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, six interceptions, 4.5 sacks, four defensive touchdowns, four forced fumbles, three blocked field goals, two blocked punts and two fumble recoveries. He also added 33 catches for 630 yards and seven touchdowns and 11 carries for 131 yards and two scores for the Generals last season.
Pope also earned an invitation to The Opening Finals, where he competed on Team Mach Speed alongside fellow Ohio State targets Kamryn Babb and L'Christian "Blue" Smith. His commitment means that the Buckeyes had a nation-leading nine commits invited to the event, which took place earlier this month.
IN THE CLASS
Pope becomes the 17th member of Ohio State's Supreme '18 recruiting class, joining five-star defensive tackle Taron Vincent, five-star defensive end Brenton Cox, four-star quarterback Emory Jones, four-star offensive tackle Max Wray, four-star offensive guard Matthew Jones, four-star tight end Jeremy Ruckert, four-star defensive end Andrew Chatfield, four-star running backs Jaelen Gill and Brian Snead, four-star linebackers Dallas Gant and Teradja Mitchell, four-star cornerback Sevyn Banks, four-star safeties Josh Proctor and Jaiden Woodbey, three-star running back Master Teague III and three-star safety Marcus Hooker.
As mentioned, the Buckeyes already hold commitments from a pair of linebackers, but the position could be one of need depending on whether or not projected starters Jerome Baker and Dante Booker head to the NFL early. Starting middle linebacker Chris Worley is also set to graduate next spring, so the staff could look to take as many as four or five linebackers in this class.
Pope's pledge greatly impacts the chances of a commitment from in-state prospects such as Cincinnati Winton Woods four-star linebacker Christopher Oats or a flip from Kentucky four-star commit Xavier Peters — who is actually still awaiting an offer. The staff remains very much in pursuit of California four-star Solomon Tuliaupupu, and I don't expect Pope's pledge to impact his thoughts on the Buckeyes.
Simply put, he's too good to stop pursuing, and the staff will certainly make the numbers work down the line if he wants to join the fold.
Shortly after Ohio State landed a commitment last month from the aforementioned Mitchell, I mentioned on Twitter how his pledge would only increase the Buckeyes' chances of landing Pope. The two live about an hour and a half apart — so long as you don't get pulled over for speeding in Emporia — and have grown rather close on the camp circuit this spring.
"We went to The Opening together,” Pope recently told Eleven Warriors. “We're pretty cool, and we know that we'll be great [at Ohio State]. Knowing him will only make us better as a unit, but we'll be great beside each other.”
Of course, it only was a matter of proving himself to the coaches at June's camp and waiting for the right time to make the call. But we should have caught on to Pope's intentions way back when.