4. Austin Pope, TE
Unless they’re highly-rated, local prospects tend to get overlooked in Tennessee’s recruiting classes. And that appears to be the case for three-star tight end Austin Pope out of Christian Academy of Knoxville.
Pope has the unusual quality of being listed as tight end while never truly lining up at that position for his high school team. At 6-foot-4, 219 pounds, Pope certainly doesn’t have the weight to block SEC defensive linemen. Even with a year or two with Tennessee’s facilities, it’s unlikely Pope would ever be an above average blocker at tight end.
No, where Pope excels is at pass-catching. Which is why he may be converted to wide receiver, and it’s why he may be extremely effective there as well.
In his last two years at CAK, Pope caught 122 passes for 1,431 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also added 8 rushing scores in those same two seasons. Pope displayed good hands and the ability to nab the ball at its highest point downfield, something Vols receivers struggled with this past season.
Pope won’t be asked to play a ton of snaps immediately in 2016, but his upside as a pass-catcher bodes well for his future. Especially if it’s at wide receiver.