It didn't take long for Tennessee prep tight end Austin Pope (6-4, 220, 4.6) to know his 10-hour trip from Knoxville to Fayetteville was worth the drive.
Pope, a Christian Academy of Knoxville star who is being recruited by Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney, impressed Razorback coaches early on in Saturday’s football camp and left with an offer - his 17th to this point.
“I have been talking to Coach Lunney for awhile now and they all watched my film,” Pope said. “Apparently (Arkansas head) Coach (Bret) Bielema saw it yesterday or the day before.
“He said they had an extensive staff meeting about me. I didn’t expect it to be that quick. I figured I would have to go through some drills.”
Pope, who had been at Mississippi State and Ole Miss the previous two days, did go through some drills but the Razorback staff saw enough that he could get a break in some.
“The camp grind kind of kills you,” Pope said. “I was fresh at Mississippi State and I’ve been sore so that is why I didn’t do anything today other than those drills out there.”
He enjoyed getting to spend time with Lunney on Saturday.
“For Arkansas, it has been Coach Lunney and I have been talking to him for a couple of weeks now,” Pope said. “He seems like a good guy and he coached us hard out there. He told us a couple of good things. I don’t really put my hand in the ground. It was definitely good to learn from a big-time SEC coach like him.”
Pope plays in a wide-open offense and rarely puts his hand down as a tight end.
“We run the spread offense in high school and I definitely play slot and I will split out wide in one-on-one situations,” Pope said. “I definitely just go up and get the ball. I am that kind of receiver. We don’t roll with a tight end so that is just the type of offense I play in.
“I am a tight end in a receiver’s body or whatever you want to call it the other way around. At the next level most schools are just recruiting me for tight end. Some at linebacker. Louisville offered me at linebacker and so did Pitt, but most schools offered me for tight end and slot wide receiver type of deal.”
Arkansas success with tight ends is a big deal for Pope.
“He said they have two tight ends on the field at least 90 percent to 100 percent of the time,” Pope said. “It definitely is a huge interest for me. Because I want to come in and I don’t want to sit for two or three years. Playing time is a big deal for me.”
“…I definitely am going to give them a big look because of the tight ends that play here,” Pope said. “I know (Hunter) Henry is a great tight end and probably going in the draft next year. And they just had somebody go to the Patriots (A.J. Derby). They have been very successful with tight ends.”
Arkansas and Mississippi State are the two SEC schools that have offered among his 17 different ones.
“Yes, sir, 17 offers with this being the second SEC one,” Pope said.
Where does Arkansas kind of fit in?
“Definitely in the top because it is a big SEC program and, like I said, the tight end success here definitely attracts me,” Pope said. “So definitely at the top.”
He has several visits left this summer for camps.
“I am just trying to go to the schools that are most interested in me because I don’t want anybody to waste their time and I don’t want to waste mind,” Pope said. “All the camps are pretty much at the same time.
“I am just trying to get to where I need to be and find the best fit for me, wherever that may be at.
“I am going to Tennessee the 11th, the 13th I am going to Missouri, 14th I am going to visit Nebraska and then the 23rd-25th I am going out to visit USC and California.”
Surprisingly, Pope has not grown up a Tennessee fan despite living so close.
“No, I actually didn’t,” Pope said. “I live in a place called Sevierville, about an hour from Knoxville, my whole life. Everybody always that question about Tennessee - if they offer will you commit or are you a big Tennessee fan?
“But the honest answer is no. I have been to a couple of games the last two years, but other than that. UT is a great program, don’t get me wrong - 100,000 fans, great coaching staff, all that and it seems like a great place.
“But regardless of if it is 20 minutes down the road from me or its 10 or 11 hours away like Arkansas, I have to find my best fit for me and the right program. At the end of the day, I don’t want to go to someplace I don’t want to be.
“That’s pretty much my look on UT. If that is the right place for me, that is, but I don’t know right now because I haven’t been. We’ll see how all this plays out.”
He is in no hurry to make a decision.
“I guess it is just a matter of when it feels right,” Pope said. “I came into the recruiting process pretty late, especially this bigger schools like Arkansas. But I definitely looking forward to visiting a couple of more schools and going to different camps and working with different coaching staffs and seeing how everybody is.
“Because a lot of people, you know how coaching is, you can come to a camp for a day and everybody will tell you that you are going to be great and you are freaking going to go to the NFL and all that stuff.
“I guess I just have to be around the coaches more at the top places I want to go, but I just don’t know where that is yet. It would be nice to have a decision going into my senior season, but we’ll see.”
Pope Lands Arkansas Offer
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