Hurricanes wide receiver recruit Mark Pope of Miami Southridge would have put on a real show earlier this month except for one thing — the top quarterbacks in the nation were unable to keep up with his blazing speed.
Coaches of the U.S. Army All-America Bowl, played Jan. 6 in San Antonio, said Pope was virtually unstoppable in practices leading up to the game.
“In practice, I was dominating,” Pope said with a laugh during a recent Miami Herald All-County photo shoot. “But when it came to the game, my quarterbacks were throwing, and I was flying past the ball.”
Pope was open deep on more than one occasion, and fellow Hurricanes recruit Jarren Williams was one of the QBs who under-threw him.
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Certainly, Williams will need to adjust once he arrives on campus, but, somewhere, Hurricanes coach Mark Richt must’ve been smiling.
After all, when Richt arrived at Miami in time for the spring of 2016, he complained about a lack of speed at receiver. Since then, he has continued to address the issue.
Pope said he hasn’t run the 40-yard dash since the eighth grade, when he posted a time of 4.52, fairly amazing for his age. It’s obvious he has since gotten much faster, and Pope estimates he would run a 4.3 today.
“It’s natural speed,” Pope said. “I’ve never even run track.”
Pope (6-1, 175) is one of three wide receivers the Canes signed in December, joining IMG’s Brian Hightower (6-3, 200) and Southridge teammate Daquris Wiggins (6-3, 175).
Hightower, a big and physical possession receiver who had a stellar game at the US Army All-America Bowl, gets as much hype as Pope.
But Pope said Wiggins is a sleeper.
“I feel like he’s going to shock a lot of people,” Pope said. “What people don’t know is how fast he is. He has me by a couple of steps. He’s long.”
Here are some more of Pope’s thoughts on various subjects:
▪ Pope said he’s been conflicted on the issue of early enrollment. “Coming in early matters to me, but, at the same time, it really doesn’t,” he said. “I’m going to college either way.”
▪ Pope said American Heritage cornerback Patrick Surtain is one of the top three defensive players he has faced either in high school games or 7-on-7. Pope said he faced Surtain twice in 7-on-7 drills at The Opening camp. “I caught both balls,” Pope said, “but I had to fight for them.”
▪ Pope has opinions on UM starting QB Malik Rosier, as well as two of his expected challengers this year, redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry and true freshman Williams.
“I went to every UM home game,” Pope said. “Malik played [well] in my eyes. He led the team.
“Perry, I went against him last year in 7-on-7. He tore us apart. He has everything — height, speed, arm …
“Jarren is like another Perry. That will be a great matchup between those two.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ As of now, FIU’s Class of 2018 is ranked 63rd nationally and No. 1 in Conference USA, according to 247 Sports. There’s one quarterback on the list of 21 signees, Caleb Lynum of East Ridge.
But don’t expect him to start as a true freshman. Instead, with four-year starter Alex McGough’s eligibility expired, expect FIU to stage a three-way QB battle between redshirt freshman Kaylan Wiggins and juniors Maurice Alexander and Christian Alexander (no relation). The starter may not be announced until late August.
The Recruiting Column is a year-round feature of the Miami Herald. If you have a tip or story idea regarding recruiting or an impending college commitment, please contact Walter Villa at: firstname.lastname@example.org