The future stars of Ohio State football officially begin their Buckeye careers as standouts from all over the country put pens to their National Letters of Intent.
Ohio State has a lot to sell a prospective recruit – storied tradition, recent recent dominance, an already legendary head coach, a vast fanbase – but ultimately it was what the program could offer a player outside of football that won over four-star linebacker K'Vaughan Pope.
The Buckeyes offered Pope a scholarship in November of 2016, but the linebacker didn't seriously consider attending Ohio State until he visited campus in early April, when the Buckeyes won him over with their Real Life Wednesdays program.
The Pope File
- Class: 2018
- Size: 6-foot-2, 210 pounds
- Pos: LB
- School: Dinwiddie (VA)
- Composite Rating: ★★★★
- Composite Rank: 7 (ILB)
"I think what caught his attention was life after football," Dinwiddie running backs coach Dequan Coles told Eleven Warriors. "He loved the opportunities after Ohio State. Obviously he wants to play in the NFL, but he knows that if that doesn't work then he's pretty much guaranteed a great job with a degree from Ohio State."
Pope fell in love with the program and likely would have committed less than two months later when he visited for a one day camp if the staff had let him.
Instead, Pope checked out a few more programs while Ohio State took one last look at his grades. In August, the staff gave him the green light, and he committed to the Buckeyes over over more than a dozen other offers from programs including Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.
Though he fell in love with what the school has to offer off the field, Pope is coming to Ohio State to play football. and with his letter of intent, the Buckeyes are getting a versatile, athletic and extremely aggressive linebacker.
"His nose for the ball is exceptional," 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."
Pope finished his senior season with 104 total tackles, 16 tackles for a loss and three sacks despite missing nearly a month of action in September after suffering an ankle sprain.
Pope is one of three linebackers in the 2019 class, joining the nation's No. 9 outside linebacker Dallas Gant and the nation's No. 2 interior linebacker in Teradja Michell, who is a good friend of Pope's, living just an hour-and-a-half away.
“We're pretty cool, and we know that we'll be great [at Ohio State]," Pope said of his relationship with Mitchell. "Knowing him will only make us better as a unit, but we'll be great beside each other.”
Those three enter a linebackers room already teeming with depth. At the outside spots, Jerome Baker and Dante Booker will be seniors next season – assuming both return to school – while upcoming juniors Keandre Jones and Malik Harrison have also proven themselves worthy candidates for starting roles next season.
On the inside, will-be redshirt sophomore Tuf Borland seems to have the MIKE linebacker spot locked down, as he started at the position much of the 2017 season, and upcoming sophomore Baron Browning seems like the next man up with Pete Werner fighting for playing time on either the outside or inside.
Given the loaded roster, it's unlikely Pope, or any other freshman linebacker, will come in and make meaningful, first-team contributions right away. But with Ohio State's emphasis on special teams play, especially for younger players, it's likely you'll see Pope making tackles in kick coverage next season.