Austin Pope is a name many Vols fans will soon become familiar with assuming he's as great as some people say. One former Tennessee assistant says that he has the potential to be better than Vols and Dallas Cowboys legend Jason Witten. He ranks second all-time in career receptions and receiving yards by an NFL tight end, trailing only the great Tony Gonzalez. Witten also changed from defensive end to tight end and that seemed to work out well for him considering he left ranked third all-time among the school's tight ends with 68 career receptions and fourth all-time with 797 receiving yards after his only junior season.
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That former assistant is Mark Bradley (1992-2000 with the Vols) who coached Witten in 2000 and helped the Vols win a national title in 1998. "Austin has more athletic ability than Jason Witten, and Jason is special because he works his way to being special,' said Bradley, who recruited Witten.
However, Bradley also thinks Pope should be playing linebacker instead of his recruited position of tight end. "You look for corners and linebackers that can cover and tackle in space, and Austin can play and tackle in space, and it's a hard commodity to find," Bradley said. "And then there's Austin's instincts; you know how he loves and studies football. He has a very high ceiling."
The 6'4", 217-pound specimen was looked at to play defense by Bob Shoop when he was the defensive coordinator for Vanderbilt. However, offensive coordinator Mike DeBord likes what he sees out of the young on offense and has every intention of using him on that side of the ball as a tight end.
"We love Austin's mentality, and he has shown great effort," DeBord said. "We're excited to see what he can do once we get into the football part of it."
Wherever Pope plays, he will likely succeed and could end up becoming the next great Tennessee tight end if he meets the lofty expectations placed on him.
[h/t SEC Country]
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