The 6-foot, 165-pound Pope said he’s a cousin of Tennessee defensive lineman LaTrell Bumphus, a former Hardin County standout. Pope is also a teammate of four-star Class of 2021 tight end Hudson Wolfe, one of the Vols’ top in-state targets.
Pope said he "was very excited" to find out that he might have a chance to follow in Bumphus’ footsteps and play at Tennessee, adding that the offer from the Vols "showed me and all the people around me that hard work pays off."
“I love Tennessee,” Pope said. “I knew in my heart that one day God would bless me with the offers because of the work I put in.” A wide receiver and cornerback at Hardin County, Pope said he’s “not really sure” which position the Vols currently are recruiting him to play, “but I am an athlete.”
During his sophomore season, he caught 35 passes for 758 yards and six touchdowns on offense while also recording 28 total tackles, four interceptions, five pass breakups and a tackle for loss on defense.
“I can go either way,” he said. “Whatever helps the team.” Pope said he thought it might take longer for a major program like Tennessee to extend an offer to him. He said he “didn’t think it was gonna happen with (the coronavirus outbreak) going on.”
“I knew I had to continue to work hard and show them that I can play SEC football,” he said. But Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt’s staff likes what it already has seen from him. “I spoke with Coach Friend and he told me we will talk later this week with Coach Pruitt,” Pope said. “He said I am a heck of a player and I worked hard.”
Pope said he was “born and raised” in the Volunteer State and “always loved Tennessee.” But even with his cousin playing for the Vols, he said he hasn’t visited them to this point or even set foot on Tennessee’s campus. He’s hoping to change that soon.
“My trainer had that on our schedule for this summer,” Pope said. “Coach Friend also said he wants to get me up there ASAP.” While Pope’s recruitment is just getting started, he said he expects to give the Vols strong consideration. “Tennessee is my first SEC offer, so I will definitely show them love,” he said.
It also doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded by plenty of Tennessee fans and he has a family connection to the program. He said Bumphus, a rising senior, has spoken highly of his experience with the Vols.
“I grew up around Tennessee fans,” Pope said. “My cousin plays at Tennessee, and Hardin County is covered in orange. We come from a big family, and every time (Bumphus) comes home, he tells me how he loves Tennessee.”
Pope said “a lot of schools are showing me interest,” including “other SEC schools.” He didn’t mention any particular programs that might be on the verge of extending offers to him, but Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Austin Peay are among the schools he has visited over the past couple of years.
Pope, a junior at Hardin County High School in Savannah, Tenn., said Pruitt "was the first to contact me" early Tuesday night, just after midnight.
The 6-foot, 165-pound Pope said Tennessee offensive line coach Will Friend also reached out to him shortly after Pruitt, and he heard from Vols wide receivers coach Tee Martin and defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley before 8 a.m.
Ole Miss, Kentucky and Cincinnati were among the other schools that sent him messages by Tuesday morning.
Tennessee gave Pope his first SEC offer in late April. He also holds early offers from Kentucky, Cincinnati, Memphis and Eastern Kentucky.
A teammate of four-star Vols tight end commitment Hudson Wolfe, Pope has yet to be rated by 247Sports and in the industry-generated 247Sports Composite.
So far 2 rivalry games in Adamsville (2A) and Mcnairy (3A) but the last 3 have been good teams in (4A Jackson Northside, 4A Dyersburg, and 4A Jackson Southside) so some pretty decent competition. The kid is fast thats for sure!
Wide receiver/athlete Kaydin Pope of Hardin County High School in Savannah, Tenn., also has been talking with Tennessee’s coaches on a regular basis, and he said the Vols mostly mentioned “things I had previously heard” from them during the Zoom conference. But he enjoyed hearing from their new staff again.
“Love how they are starting a new wave at UT,” Pope said.
While Pope said Tennessee’s former staff had told him that he “could play either way,” as either a wide receiver or defensive back, the Vols’ new staff seems to be focused on using him on offense. He said most teams are recruiting him as a wide receiver, but some programs — including Kentucky — have expressed interest in using him on defense.
“I want to say it’s clear that I’m a receiver for Tennessee,” Pope said. “(Burns) was just telling me how he needs me there and that I’d be a good help on offense.”
Pope said Burns, who spent the past five years at Auburn before briefly joining Heupel’s staff at UCF and then following him to Tennessee, has already made a good impression on him during his first weeks on the job.
“I think he’s a really exciting guy,” Pope said of Burns, “and he comes with good energy.”
Only a few teams have hosted Pope on visits to this point. He said he has “been to Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State,” but he’s still waiting to take his first look at Tennessee’s campus. The ongoing dead period for recruiting has been extended through May 31, but he said he has considered making a trip to Knoxville on his own sometime within the next few months.
“When they pushed (the end of the dead period) back, me and my dad were talking,” Pope said. “We’re going to head up to UT. … I’m thinking about going to Ole Miss, but I’ve seen the facility. I just want to see the coaches.”
He has a family connection to Tennessee. He’s a cousin of Vols senior defensive lineman LaTrell Bumphus, who also played at Hardin County. Pope is also a former teammate of Ole Miss freshman tight end Hudson Wolfe, who was committed to the Vols for nearly six months before flipping to the Rebels in December.