We continue the Better Know a Buckeye series with its 13th installment in 2018. Here, we profile K'Vaughan Pope, an athlete from Dinwiddie, VA.
- Size: 6-2/210
- Position: ATH
- Hometown: Dinwiddie, VA
- School: Dinwiddie County
- 247 Composite: ★★★★
- National Ranking: 217
- Position Ranking: 9 (ILB)
- State Ranking: 4 (VA)
- The Opening Finals
Nothing about K'Vaughan Pope through 2016 and early 2017 suggested he would come to Ohio State. He held an offer, but never publicly mentioned it as he otherwise strongly considered his options in the ACC and SEC. However, an April 2017 visit to Ohio State changed that as Pope was sold on Ohio State's professional development program outside football. Real Life Wednesdays was ultimately the difference in Pope choosing Ohio State over other offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Florida, and Florida State.
I retell this recruitment below. Thereafter, I provide a scouting report of an "athlete" that Ohio State sees as an inside linebacker. I conclude with a projection of a redshirt in 2018 and some junior-year highlight film for the reader to watch at the end of the feature.
Those who've been following Ohio State recruiting over the past 15 years would recognize Pope doesn't fit the profile of the kind of recruit Ohio State would typically land. Indeed, his location and catalog of offers fits the profile of someone who would forgo an offer from Ohio State to sign with an SEC program or one of the top programs in the ACC (i.e. Clemson, Florida State, or Virginia Tech).
More K'Vaughan Pope at 11W
That's how his recruitment looked like it would unfold during his sophomore and early junior years. South Carolina was a first major offer, coming at the end of his sophomore year. It was Florida that emerged as the early favorite. A June 5, 2016 offer from Jim McElwain's Gators moved Florida to the top of his list.
Indeed, Florida may have been the dream school the extent to which Pope would say he had one. He fancied the Gators since he was a kid. A lot transpired for Florida football since Pope watched Tim Tebow lead the Gators to a national championship in 2008 but the Gators, by that point, had rebounded under Jim McElwain. They were the reigning SEC East champions and Randy Shannon, his would-be position coach, had a lengthy pedigree coaching linebackers since his days at Miami.
Pope was in no rush to commit to the Gators notwithstanding the early offer and the "dream school" status. He continued to visit other programs, largely in his immediate reach. He continued to acquire offers as a junior with major offers coming from the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, and Notre Dame. Ohio State even offered during this time, extending their own verbal offer in November of his junior year. However, few things indicated Ohio State was a major player at this time.
Pope started to cast his net wider as he began to cool on the Gators. Florida was still in the mix, but Pope began looking wider for college as he took inventory on what he ultimately prioritized in the decision he would make. He identified that life after football is ultimately what matters the most and that professional development off the field is as important as professional development on the field.
That would be Ohio State's foot in the door and eventual pitch to Pope when he visited the Buckeyes in April of last year. Real Life Wednesdays is how Ohio State went from an afterthought and a footnote during the bulk of his recruitment to the program he fancied the most.
"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."
People continued to explore options, which even included a trip to Georgia in July. However, Ohio State assumed the lead in the race for his verbal signature. He made his decision public when the coaching staff gave him its blessing in August.
On August 4, 2017, K'Vaughan Pope announced he had committed to Ohio State as the 13th member of what would become the Buckeyes' full 2018 recruiting class. He chose Ohio State over competing offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, and Florida State, among several other major offers.
I AM PROUD TO SAY THAT I AM COMMITTED TO THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY pic.twitter.com/2vFW9AuGjs— KVaughan Pope (@ThePope81) August 4, 2017
This concluded his recruitment, official visit to Ohio State for the Michigan State game notwithstanding. He signed with Ohio State during the early signing period.
WHERE HE EXCELS
Watch Pope's highlight film and you'll see he's anything other than a conventional linebacker. He factors into the linebacker rotation but he was a multifaceted athlete to whom Dinwiddie County's coaching staff wanted to get the ball in any way possible.
He does show considerable promise on defense at the inside linebacker position. That position, more than the outside linebacker positions, requires a great instinct and an ability to diagnose the play. Pope shows that already, demonstrating a knack for the nature of the play and where the ball is going.
Inside linebackers are typically not as adept at pass protection as the outside linebackers but it's still an important part of the job. Here, Pope shows more on his tape than other inside linebackers that come to the program. It'll speed up his development.
Ultimately, it's no secret Pope will transition from a versatile two-way athlete in high school to a linebacker at Ohio State, but his time at all positions will assist him in understanding the nature of the opposing offense and what ends and receivers do down the field.
MUST WORK ON
Pope is an "athlete" but will not wow with his agility or speed. In other words, Pope was the best player on his team, but played more as a bulldozer that would rather run someone over than make him miss in space. Even his plays at wide receiver in high school make him look more like a linebacker than even a tight end. That makes him well-suited for the inside but doesn't show promise if he were tasked with an outside linebacker's job.
I do have a residual concern about Pope's current frame. Basically, he'll need to gain around 30 pounds of solid muscle to do the job justice at middle linebacker. Consider this more a question about how quickly Pope can see the field rather than a concern he could crack the two-deep down the road.
Further, the nature of his transition means it's no secret Pope will have to pick up finer points of inside linebacker should he see the field at all. Ohio State saw the importance of that as Tuf Borland supplanted Chris Worley at middle linebacker. It was a drop in athleticism at the position in exchange for a player who could better diagnose the play, and attack the gap for which he was responsible. Pope can get there, but the more minutiae he learns, the better.
I think this is a redshirt year for K'Vaughan Pope. Tuf Borland's injury creates some nagging uncertainty at middle linebacker to start the year but Ohio State has options outside Pope. A redshirt year will do Pope well.
Here are junior-year highlights of K'Vaughan Pope.