High school star ratings mean absolutely nothing when it comes to college production, and for Mark Pope that has been the case for his 1st two years on Miami’s campus. Pope has not been given the most in game opportunities but going into his junior season he needs to take advantage of a new scheme and a new lease of his college career.
Pope arrived in Coral Gables as a highly regarded 4-star receiver who ranked number 227 on the ESPN Top 300. At 6’1 and 171lbs, Pope was thought to be a sure-fire number 1 option coming out of high school. Pope was an All-Dade 1st teamer who totaled over 1000 yards and 12 TDs in his prep career. When he signed with Miami in 2018 the hope was, he would lead the group moving forward, but 2 seasons in his contributions have been few and far between.
His freshman season was basically a wasted season as he recorded stats in only 2 games, 1 rush for 4 yards bs FIU and 1 catch for 11 yards at Virginia Tech. Miami struggled all season in 2018 for offensive production but for a myriad of reasons Pope could not crack the lineup for various reasons, but one of the stories was he didn’t learn the playbook fast enough, and fell behind because of that. Mark Richt did not have the most sophisticated offense, so hearing that Pope did not dive headfirst into learning the plays was concerning.
2019 should have been a breakthrough season for the talented Pope, but he only scratched the surface of what could be. Mark posted a career high 3 catches for 92 yards vs Bethune Cookman but was injured in the game and did not have the same impact the remainder of the year. Pope only had 1 game the rest of the season with more than two receptions and that was 3 in the shutout loss to La Tech. On the year he would finish with just 18 grabs and 266 yards. Dan Enos never seemed to have full faith, and played KJ Osborn, Dee Wiggins and Jeff Thomas more.
2020 is a huge year for Pope and the Miami offense. Rhett Lashlee brings his up-tempo spread offense to Coral Gables, which should provide ample opportunity for the receiving corps to thrive. SMUs top three pass catchers had 197 catches between them, with James Proche leading the way with 111 grabs. Mark Pope needs to realize that as a junior, and with lots of young talent coming on campus, that this needs to be his year, or he will be forever passed by. Pope has all the god given talent to put up monster numbers in this type of offense, but he needs to put the work in to make sure that happens. With D’Eriq King now throwing the ball and Lashlee running a pass friendly system, Pope could be the benefactor of added chances.
The lack of depth at WR should allow for ample opportunity to play. Dee Wiggins, Jeremiah Payton, Mike Harley and Pope are the returning players on the roster. Lashlee will implement many more 4 and 5 WR sets, and the rotation will most likely be a little more inclusive than Dan Enos’ offense. The speed and space should allow for Pope to operate with much more room to get open, and judging by some of his offseason videos, Pope is taking this chance very seriously.
Mark Pope has been an enigma for two years, but I truly believe he will have 40 plus grabs, 600 plus yards and a few TDs in electric fashion. Pope has all of the ability to make it happen, but now he needs to put it all together. If he falters this year, he could be passed by a bunch of talented underclassmen who have arrived on campus already, or will be here in 2021. Pope is one of the players with the most to prove, and if he wants to be an NFL player, the time is now.