USFNation Class of '08 Q&A: Mark Popek

In a about a week the next USF class will arrive on campus, and OT Mark popek of Plant City HS, will be among them. In today's exclusive Class of '08 interview find all about Mark, what type of a player he is, what teams he is most looking forward to playing against, and much more. Only on! Get it First, Get it Fast!

Mark Popek Profile What have you been up to while getting ready for USF?
Mark Popek: Probably the same as everyone else, just running and lifting. Pretty much every day that's what I do. I go to the gym about two hours a day every day and try to get in the best shape possible. That's about it. I graduated and that was big, but now it's time to focus on next week.  


USFN: What were the main reasons you chose USF?
Popek: Now, when I realize that I'm moving away, I'm glad I stayed home. A lot of schools I looked at were far away, so that's one. When I was there I really liked the coaches, they seemed like real good guys, and that they weren't putting on a show or anything. Some schools seemed like they put on a front, but USF seemed very honest, and said this is what we have. Another thing was just watching them over the past season, they kicked ass this. My family is happy because they can see me play, and when I went there, I knew that's where I wanted to play.

USFN: Which positions do you play and what are the Bulls recruiting you for?
Popek: They're talking about offensive tackle, probably right tackle, but they said don't be surprised if I play on the left.  I played right tackle in high school and they say my size makes me a natural right tackle. I also played defensive tackle and guard. This is actually the first year I played on the offensive line because I got a lot bigger after my junior year. I played some three-technique and if it was third and long or 2nd and long, I'd go in, because my coach wasn't big on playing both ways. 


USFN: How did the switch to offense take place?
Popek: Towards the end of my junior year I was probably 6'6 and 240 pounds. Then I really got in the weight room, ate all the time, and lifted everyday. I got up to 290, and then at the beginning of last season I was up to 310, and the switch was made.


USFN: What coaches were involved with your recruiting?
Popek: Mostly Larry Scott. He came around in the beginning of the year, and talked to me, but it wasn't into later when it picked up. Coach Simmonds came by and so did Coach Leavitt, but it was mostly Larry Scott.


USFN: Do you know any current Bulls?
Popek: I know most of the offensive line and also got to know Josh Garvin at the spring game and he was pretty cool.


USFN: While on offense is there a favorite play that you like to run?

Popek: In high school we run a lot of zone and I like that. Inside zone, outside zone, going one on one and I like that. I also like to run the spread and pass protection, I feel like it's smoother.  


USFN: Is there a type of defense you like to see when you get to the line?
Popek: No not really, whatever the play is I just run it. When on the line you just got to do your job.


USFN: What are some of your strengths as a player? 
Popek: I love to lift weights and to be in the weight room, and that's always a positive. For my size I'm pretty quick. I'm not fat, and I'm not bragging, but everybody who sees me thinks I'm a tight end and don't weigh 300 pounds. A lot of coaches say I have good feet and I'm pretty quick for a big guy, and don't fall down a lot, and but I'll let that be known once I get to USF.


USFN: Is there anything about you that catches opponent's off-guard?

Popek: I don't know, maybe my quickness, because I'm such a big guy.


USFN: What would you like to work on as a player?
Popek: Pretty much just knowledge. I know it'll be a lot different in college. Lot of the guys we'll be playing against in the Big East will know how many steps you're going to take, just by looking, and I want to improve in that area. My size I'm good with, and I know I'll get bigger and stronger, but would like to work on my speed some.


USFN: What is your favorite thing to do on the field?
Popek: Pretty much pulling, I really like to pull, but they say I'm too big for guard. At tackle I just to go mono a mono, and handle it and dominate the player.  


USFN: Are they're any special moves you like to use?

Popek: No not really. On the line it's pretty much the same. Just like wedge and punch, and basic moves. On defense I did some pretty fun stuff, but I'm not going to play defense. 


USFN: Is there a player on another level, college or pro that you model your game after?
Popek: I like Joe Thomas. Last year he was my idol. He seems like me, big but pretty quick, and aggressive, and has good technique. Thats what I aspire to be.

USFN: What is your current height, weight and 40 yard time?
Popek: Currently, I'm about 6'7 and 308 pounds, and haven't run a 40 in awhile, but probably a 5.2.


USFN: How strong are you in the weight room?
Popek: I bench around 300, and squat anywhere from 450-500 depending on the day. We don't do a lot of clean and jerk, but that is one thing I'm trying to learn but it's hard when you're tall, and I want to work on it when I get over there. I know it will help my game.


USFN: Do you play any other sports?
Popek: I did shot-put and discuss, but just for fun. I also played a bit of baseball. 


USFN: Are there any issues if they ask you to redshirt?
Popek: I'm fine with that. It's there decision. If you look at a guy like Zach Hermann, He redshirted his first year and then started 13 games the next year. I think the transition to college is going to be big, and it could give me the opportunity to work on grades and get acclimated, so that could be a positive.


USFN: Do you play special teams?
Popek: Just field goal, but that's it.  


USFN: What was your most memorable football game?
Popek: Probably when we played Armwood for Home coming. They were undefeated and beat every team by like 20 points, but they only beat us 17-14, and it wasn't supposed to be that close.  


USFN: What do you plan to accomplish while at USF?
Popek: I like to hopefully start at least two years. I'm going for my education, its hard to make it to the NFL, so I want to get a college degree. I'm not big on accolades, and just want to be able to help the team. If I can do that then I'll be happy.


USFN: What teams are you looking forward to playing against in the next 4 years?
Popek: I really want to play against Florida, that's a big one I'm looking forward to West Virginia the last game of the season that will be huge. I'm looking forward to travel also. I don't like to live in the cold, but like to visit it, and we play a lot of northern teams. When I went up to Illinois last year, it was horrible.


USFN: When I say USF, what three things come to your head?
Popek: Probably Passionate, Tampa, and I think ESPN. 


USFN: Are you excited to get to campus?
Popek: I can't wait, next Wednesday at 9:00 am. I'm excited and a little bit nervous at the same time. I guess everybody is like that.



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