BUFORD, Ga. — Like Bryce Brown and like Kahlil McKenzie before him, Owen Pappoe has an opportunity to be something only one player a class do and that’s be the No. 1 recruit in the country.
Just like Brown and just like McKenzie, Pappoe could wind up signing with the Tennessee Volunteers.
The freshman linebacker from Grayson (Ga.) High School has not yet announced a top group of favorite schools but said when he does, Tennessee will be in it.
“They’re up there, they’re up there,” Pappoe told InsideTennessee.
“I just love the people there. They’re going to make sure that even outside of football, you’re going to be successful in life. I really like that.”
The potential Scout five-star prospect from the 2019 class took part in an invite-only junior day in Knoxville on March 5.
“There was a lot of people there,” said Pappoe, who holds 26 scholarship offers. “I liked it just like every other visit there I’ve been on.
“(What stuck out was) just getting to talk to (Tennessee linebackers) coach (Tommy) Thigpen again (at junior day). I have a real good relationship with him. I enjoyed that.”
Thigpen would hop, skip and jump all over the Anderson Training Center if Tennessee received a signed letter of intent from the athletic ‘backer in three years.
“He’s a great coach,” Pappoe said of Thigpen. “I even got to see him coach a little bit at practice. He’s not the type to be in your face; he’s real relaxed.”
Pappoe is well on his way to finding a home on Rocky Top. He returned again on March 25 and brought his parents to see the Volunteers practice in Neyland Stadium to see “high intensity. I like seeing people compete.”
It’s going to be sometime before he puts pen to paper on any document binding him to a particular school but Pappoe said coach Butch Jones and staff view him as an outside linebacker “but if I get big enough, then defensive end.”
Pappoe said he has “a lot” of experience dropping into space and covering pass catchers in a 4-2-5 defensive scheme like the Big Orange primarily uses.
“We do that at Grayson, too,” he said. “We played over the tight end pretty much almost every single game last year, and I played in the spread, too.”
The 6-foot, 199-pounder clocked a time of 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash at The Opening Atlanta, posting the nation’s top SPARQ testing score of any linebacker thus far in 2016.
Sticking out amongst supreme competition is something Pappoe strives to do at practices in Loganville, Georgia. Two years ahead of him at Grayson and taking part in “high intensity practices” are five-star athlete DeAngelo Gibbs, four-star quarterback Chase Brice (Clemson commit) and four-star linebacker Breon Dixon (Georgia commit).
“Everybody’s competing every day,” Pappoe said. “There’s a lot of big names coming through this year, too, so I’m trying to get better.”