Tennessee landed local three-star tight end Austin Pope on Monday night from Christian Academy of Knoxville, returning to the school where the Vols found receiver Josh Smith and offensive lineman Brett Kendrick in the 2013 class.
Pope received an offer from UT recently, camped with Tennessee and then made his decision a few days after, releasing a statement on Twitter that first showed a letter he wrote to his future self as a freshman in high school that envisioned him committing to Tennessee and then said, “While the circumstances might be slightly different from that letter to this one, it’s safe to say that as a high school freshman I knew myself pretty well. Therefore, with careful consideration, I have decided to continue my academic and athletic career at the University of Tennessee.”
Pope is the 11th commitment in the 2016 class for the Vols and the second tight end, joining Devante Brooks, who recently announced that he will undergo a second knee surgery.
Full RTI profile for Pope:
Other top offers
Nebraska, Arkansas, Louisville, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Missouri
Status: The Vols were a little slower in offering Pope, waiting until June of 2015 to officially jump in and give the offer, but once they did, Pope expressed a lot of excitement and it vaulted Tennessee to right near the top of his list. He made a visit shortly after receiving the offer, and with the local ties and a couple former teammates on the roster in Josh Smith and Brett Kendrick, the Vols have a great chance to land him.
RTI average: 3-stars
How He Fits
The Vols appeared to have their tight end pretty locked up for this class in Devante Brooks. And while Brooks is still in the fold, there’s some level of concern about his healthy after he announced he’ll miss his senior season with a torn ACL – the second time that injury has occurred.
Pope is an intriguing prospect on several levels. He likely best projects as a tight end, but he plays primarily as a jumbo receiver in CAK’s Air Raid offense, and is also a seasoned linebacker on defense. He’s the type of player the Vols could bring in as insurance for Brooks, and then figure out the exact best spot for him once he’s on campus.