University of Miami

Mark Pope knows freshman year was a bust. This is why he thinks Year 2 will be better

Wide receiver Mark Pope admits learning the playbook was an issue as a freshman at Miami

Mark Pope joined the Miami Hurricanes as a five-star wide receiver in the Rivals.com rankings. The wideout struggled to learn the playbook, though, and caught just one pass as a freshman. The receiver expects his sophomore year to be better.
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Mark Pope joined the Miami Hurricanes as a five-star wide receiver in the Rivals.com rankings. The wideout struggled to learn the playbook, though, and caught just one pass as a freshman. The receiver expects his sophomore year to be better.

Mark Pope knows his freshman year with the Miami Hurricanes didn’t play out the way it was supposed to. The setbacks began before he even got on campus, when he came up just one class short of being able to early enroll for the spring semester, keeping him from getting the leg up he was banking on. They continued once the season started, when the wide receiver struggled to find a consistent place on the two-deep depth chart.

In the end, Pope finished his freshman season with just one measly catch for an overall disappointing offense. The former five-star recruit also knows he has only himself to blame.

“I wasn’t shocked because I knew it was on me,” Pope said at a satellite youth camp in Homestead. “I would say that was my fault — I didn’t really learn the playbook the way I was supposed to learn the playbook, so I blame that on myself.”

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It has made the goals for this offseason obvious enough: Pope needs to learn the playbook and learn to do more than just rely on the raw talent which made him a five-star wide receiver in the Rivals.com rankings when he was coming out of Miami Southridge in the Class of 2018.

The early returns, at least from what he and teammates are saying this offseason, are overwhelmingly positive. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound receiver is frequently mentioned by teammates at various Manny Diaz Football Camps as one of the standouts for Miami in offseason 7-on-7 workouts. Granted, the case was similar last year, but now Pope better understands the flaws in his game compared to when he was a newcomer. He admits learning the playbook was “definitely” the biggest challenge for him in 2018.

“In high school, the only thing I ran was like a bomb, a post, a corner — all the deep routes,” Pope said at Harris Field Park, where he made plenty of big plays with the Spartans. “Just coming into a college playbook, just knowing I’ve got motions, I have to do this, I’ve got to do that.”

He also has an impressive spring to build on. With a rash of injuries in the receivers corps, there was no shortage of opportunities for Pope, and he took advantage. In a pair of spring scrimmages in Miami and Orlando, Pope combined for four catches for 57 yards and added a 52-yard run on an end around. He finally started to look like the explosive offensive weapon the Hurricanes hoped they were getting when they beat out the Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide to sign the elite local prospect.

“My coaches know I can play. It was just based on me knowing what I can do,” Pope said. “It’s just coming in every day, getting the playbook, basically.”

At least for now, some of the frustration has evaporated for Pope.

Amid a frustrating season for the whole team, Pope was one of myriad players to take some of his apparent angst to social media through cryptic messages. For the first time, Pope was struggling with football. Even though he said he never considered transferring, Pope quickly admitted to being frustrated earlier this spring.

The past few weeks might be another turning point. At least in 7-on-7 workouts, Pope no longer has to lean on veterans to understand what he needs to do. For the past week, Pope said he hasn’t had to ask what to do. He’s finally back to just playing.

“I’ve definitely noticed myself. Just knowing that the coaches are telling me that I’m stepping up my game, just going over the playbook,” Pope said. “For the past week of 7-on-7, I didn’t have to ask nobody for what I have to do. I’ve just been stepping up my game.”

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