Miami Coaches Using Time-Tested Method to Unleash WR Mark Pope
It’s a familiar story. A highly-decorated recruit goes to the University of Miami, or any school, and struggles to get acclimated during his first two seasons.
That’s what UM junior wide receiver Mark Pope is living right now.
How the story finishes is up to Pope and how quickly he can mentally adapt to what Miami’s coaches are asking.
Pope, one of three returning veteran wide receivers along with Mike Harley and Dee Wiggins, hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations that existed when he signed with UM. He was ranked No. 67 in the nation by 247 Sports coming out of high school.
Last season Pope totaled 18 receptions for 266 yards and two touchdowns. As a freshman he had just one reception for 11 yards.
Miami coaches want Pope to get better by thinking less and playing more on natural ability. The key, coaches say, is repetition.
So far, it seems the message is getting through to Pope.
“Me and Pope, we always hang out outside of football,” said wide receiver Dee Wiggins, Pope high school teammate at Miami Southridge.
“He tells me all the time, ‘Confidence takes you a long way, and once you have confidence and you know what you’re doing you play fast, and when you play fast you’re very accurate in what you do.’ ”
Now listen to what offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said about Pope recently.
“I think Mark’s been one of our guys that has gotten steadily better as camp’s gone on, and I think that’s because hopefully we’re putting him in a position to be successful,” Lashlee said.
“By doing the same stuff over and over again. I think success breeds confidence. I think repetition is the mother of all learning so (as) he gets to do things over and over again he continues to gain confidence, and when you’re a confident player you’re going to play better.”
Miami wide receivers coach Rob Likens coached a pair of first-round picks at Arizona State in N’Keal Harry (New England, 2019) and Brandon Aiyuk (San Francisco, 2020).
Likens raised the bar for Pope when he went on local radio talked passionately about the need for lateral quickness among today’s wide receivers and finished by saying, “Mark Pope has as good (lateral quickness) as anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Pope is playing under his third play-caller among ex-coach Mark Richt (2018) and ex-offensive coordinator Dan Enos (2019).
Miami coaches hope to get their wide receivers to relax and play better by having them do so many repetitions they no longer have to think about what they’re doing. Lashlee admits it’s not a revolutionary idea, but he says it works.
“Hopefully you see not only with Mark, but all of our guys,” Lashlee said, “guys that are playing fast and reacting, not just physically…but more in the mental aspect.”