COLUMBUS, Ohio — Thoughts on K’Vaughan Pope’s commitment to Ohio State , how he fits and what it means for the Buckeyes.
* Pope’s recruitment gave an interesting look into Ohio State’s process. Usually when a four-star linebacker with Pope’s athleticism wants to commit to your program, you say go ahead and figure out the rest later. The Buckeyes didn’t do that.
They were diligent with a prospect who looks like he’s good enough to play anywhere, and Pope was patient with them. With 17 prospects now committed for 2018, and the kind of talent still out there for Ohio State, the staff has to pick it’s spots — always.
Sometimes that can be taken the wrong way, and reflect poorly on the talent of the player. Don’t let it cloud how you view Pope, who fits the mold of the kind of athlete Ohio State is growing accustomed to signing.
* Pope (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) is rated as an inside linebacker, and when you watch his highlight tape you can see how he could be a good Mike linebacker in the future.
Then you keep watching and see he has the athleticism to play inside or outside. That explains how he fits into a linebacker class that already includes Teradja Mitchell and Dallas Gant. If things work out for everyone involved, you’re looking at a potential future starting linebacker trio: Mitchell in the middle flanked on either side by Gant and Pope. That’s pretty good.
* With the way Pope was used on offense at Dinwiddie, it’s easy to see how he could play in space as an outside linebacker in Ohio State’s defense. The Buckeyes, first with Luke Fickell and now with new position coach Bill Davis, view both outside linebacker spots as interchangeable.
So don’t get wrapped up now in who, out of Gant and Pope, will be the Will linebacker and who will be the Sam linebacker down the line. Plans, and bodies, change. Just know that both can play outside, and all three linebacker commits seem complement each other well.
* One other thing that stuck about Pope’s tape, and seems to be increasing in regularity with a lot of the defensive players Ohio State is recruiting, is that he’s dangerous with the ball in his hands.
As an offensive player at Dinwiddie High School last year, Pope had 33 receptions for 630 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had 11 rushing attempts for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
That offensive skill set allows him to do stuff like this when he gets the ball in his hands on defense:
Pope had 135 tackles, 4.5 sacks and six interceptions in his junior season.
* What does this mean for Ohio State’s recruiting class? Well it seemed like Pope was always going to be in the fold at some point. But part of the reason the Buckeyes were holding off on accepting a commitment seemed to be their infatuation with four-star linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu and five-star linebacker Palaie Gaoteote.
Tuliaupupu, from Mater Dei in California, is uncommitted. Gaoteote, from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, is committed to USC.
Both have recruitments that will drag on through their senior seasons, it seems, which can be a good thing for Ohio State if it can get both on campus this fall for official visits.
I don’t think this commitment of Pope means the Buckeyes will stop pursuing either Tuliaupupu or Gaoteote. Maybe it means they don’t like their chances. I’m taking it as they wanted Pope, they’ll continue recruiting the other guys and if one of them wants to jump on board, Ohio State will make it work.
* You might be asking how Ohio State can take this many linebackers in one class. Four would be a lot, but three can work. Here’s how:
We at cleveland.com spend a lot of time policing Ohio State’s scholarship situation, monitoring how the Buckeyes can get their recruiting classes close to or at 25 players with the way the roster in constituted and asking questions about it when necessary. The updated scholarship chart is here.
You’ll see that Ohio State is at 17 commitments, on its way to probably 24 or 25, and only has 12 scholarship seniors with two other unused spots. The math doesn’t add up now, but it always seems to in the end in a world where Ohio State has players leaving early for the NFL at an incredible rate. That brings us back to linebackers.
The Buckeyes are carrying 10 scholarship linebackers this season. Chris Worley, the senior starting middle linebacker, will be gone after this year. Junior Jerome Baker seems destined for the NFL with another strong season, and Dante Booker — a fourth-year junior — could certainly make the leap to the pros with a good season.
Three linebackers out, three linebackers in. Makes sense.