Tennessee tight end Austin Pope donned the pads this spring for the first time since 2019. Pope battled a nagging back injury that sidelined him for the 2020 season. Pope discussed the reasoning and his playing career on Rocky Top in an exclusive hour-long interview with Rocky Insider's Trey Wallace.
Pope briefly entered the transfer portal during the winter, but he withdrew his name and returned to Josh Heupel's program after hearing the vision the new Tennessee Head Coach has for his program.
When healthy, Pope started for Tennessee, and he would have likely slotted right back into a starting role this fall given his presence as one of the best blockers in the nation.
Pope played in 33 games during his career, and he recorded 14 starts during that time. He graduated with a degree in communication studies in 2020, however, the COVID-19 blanket eligibility waiver allowed him the chance to come back as a 'super senior.'
Tennessee's tight end room now consists of Jacob Warren, Trinity Bell, Princeton Fant, Julian Nixon, and Miles Campbell. The Vols currently have one commitment at the position in the 2022 recruiting class in Brody Foley.
The position will likely be maximized compared to its use under the previous staff, as Heupel's offense is tight end friendly, and Alex Golesh is widely considered one of the best developers of talent at the position. Losing Pope's veteran presence is certainly a blow for Tennessee.
Listen to Pope's full interview with Wallace here. It is one that you do not want to miss.