Blue-chip linebacker coming to Bama

When Derrick Pope, a 6-0, 235-pound outside linebacker, makes his visit to the Capstone this weekend, it won't be in the hopes of getting a scholarship offer.

Pope, the nephew of Bama Wide Receivers Coach Kenith Pope and considered to be one of the top junior college linebackers in the nation, committed to the Tide last year. When asked if his commitment was still firm, he was quick to respond, "Oh, yes sir."

So the trip to Tuscaloosa will be a get-acquainted session, with none of the pressure that usually surrounds recruits.

Currently attending Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kansas, Pope will be joined on the visit by his brother Roshawn Pope, a 5-11, 180-pound wide receiver/cornerback from Ball High School in Galveston.

Tide Assistant Head Coach Kenith Pope is the nephew of both Derrick and Roshawn, which undoubted gave Alabama an edge in recruiting.

But Roshawn will be making his own decision as far as school goes. "We're not a package deal," Derrick said. "He's just trying to see if that's what he wants to play. He played quarterback in high school, but he'll be a receiver or defensive back on the Division 1 level."

The younger Pope is a very good athlete, but it's believed that Roshawn will begin his college career on the JUCO level. So it's very possible that both brothers would sign with the Tide on National Signing Day, with Roshawn then being placed at a junior college by Alabama.

Outside linebackers need speed to get around opposing linemen, and as the coaching adage says, "You can't coach speed." Either you're born with it or you're not.

Derrick was born with it.

"My favorite part of playing linebacker is just being able to separate from the linemen and make tackles. Most linebackers have trouble getting away from linemen, but I have the speed to get away from them."

Pope is listed as having a 4.45 40-yard dash time. That speed, coupled with his strength (600-pound squat, 415-pound bench), helped him notch 120 tackles, seven sacks, and 17 tackles for loss this year.

As the nephew of Bama Assistant Head Coach Kenith Pope, Derrick originally committed to TCU out of high school. So his decision to attend Alabama was obviously influenced by the new coaching staff.

While having an uncle on staff obviously helped steer Pope to Alabama, the common bloodlines didn't seal the deal completely. Derrick explained; "I talked with Coach Fran a lot one-on-one, and with Coach Torbush, also."

But in Derrick's eyes, his uncle's presence was a bonus. "I always looked at Alabama as a good school. But since he moved there from TCU, I looked at it as having a family member to help me out."

Often described as an athlete who loves contact, Pope's speed and aggressiveness made him a key target for the Tide this year. He's expected to contribute immediately at either Rover or Strongside Linebacker, and Derrick reports that he also may get a quick look at strong safety.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Pope is viewed by most experts as one of the pillars of this year's Alabama class.

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