COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State reinforced its No. 1 spot in the Class of 2018 rankings when it landed 4-star linebacker K’Vaughan Pope on Friday.
Pope (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) is the No. 7 inside linebacker and No. 168 overall prospect in the Class of 2018. He’s the third linebacker in Ohio State’s class, joining 4-stars Dallas Gant and Teradja Mitchell. To learn what Pope can bring to Ohio State, Land of 10 caught up with Dinwiddie (Va.) County football coach Billy Mills.
Q: What traits of his stand out on the football field?
Mills: “His explosiveness is on another level. He gets to full speed pretty quickly. There’s not many people his size who can run the way he does. He’s a legit 4.5 [40-yard dash] at 220 pounds. He’s a really explosive kid who can make plays from numbers to numbers.
“He does things that are not really part of the defense. He just makes plays. He can pick up a receiver running vertical down the middle, stuff that you wouldn’t normally ask a linebacker to do.”
Q: Was it immediately obvious that he’d eventually be a high-level recruit?
Mills: “We knew he was special from the start. His work ethic is just incredible. He hasn’t missed a workout since his freshman year, and that’s while playing multiple sports. He plays basketball and he runs track. He gets up at 6 in the morning during basketball season and still comes to lifts. He’s a throwback. Not many kids play with his kind of attitude and his kind of ability.”
Q: Why has he been such a good fit at linebacker?
Mills: “He didn’t play defense his freshman year. He was strictly offense. Sophomore year I started working him in and having him practice defense. I wasn’t really committed to putting him on the defensive side until his junior year, but one of our linebackers one game was messing up. It was the middle of a game, but I decided it was time to put K’Vaughan in.
“First play they run a toss sweep to the right and he makes a tackle on the numbers. They come back the very next play and run a sweep to the left and he makes a tackle on the other numbers. He hasn’t been off the field since. He has a knack for it, but he also studies film. Everything he does helps him be a leader on the field.”
Q: How did he handle the recruiting process?
Mills: “His family wanted him to have the commitment ceremony but he asked me months ago if he can just text the coach [when he eventually wanted to commit]. He’s not about all that stuff. I tried to get him to go on visits just to see the schools. He’d camp at some schools that wanted him to. When he went to Ohio State he was just blown away. I knew from the time we left there in April that his mind was pretty much made up.”
Q: Is there a performance of his that stands out to you?
Mills: “Other than the state championship game, we had one tight game last year. Our primary kick returner cramped up and had to come off the field. I asked for somebody to go in there and K’Vaughan runs out there and lines up as the kick returner on kickoff. Of course, they took a look at him and thought he wouldn’t return it so they kicked it to him. He went 87 yards for a touchdown. He took that whole game over. He has that kind of ability.”
Q: How would you describe his personality?
Mills: “He’s just a big kid off the field. Everybody loves him — the teachers, the football players, the non-football players. It was amazing seeing how many people came to watch him commit. I didn’t know he knew that many people [laughs].
“We have several coaches with 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds and we encourage them to bring their kids around. You’ll see him running around and playing with those kids and having just as much fun as they do. He’s a really good person. I’m really happy for him. He deserves everything coming to him.”
Q: What’s he capable of at the college level?
Mills: “I think the sky is the limit for him. He can come in and compete. I know at a place like Ohio State you have to pay your dues. I told him it’s better to go to a place where you learn from an All-American and play for championships every year than somewhere that will throw you into the fire right away. But knowing K’Vaughan, as a freshman he’ll fight to try to find his way onto the field somehow.”