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2015 NFL DRAFT
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Leonard Pope

Height: 6-8 | Weight: 258 | College: Georgia
 
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Overview

Possibly the tallest receiver in college football, Pope has that perfect blend of size, strength and speed needed to consistently stretch the defense and break tackles to gain extra yardage. Anyone looking for a validation of his hard-driving running skills after the catch need only to talk to Tennessee cornerback Jason Allen, who suffered a dislocated hip trying to tackle Pope in 2005.

At Americus High School, Pope earned Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super Southern 100, Top 50 in Georgia, Class AA All-State, Georgia Sportswriters Association All-State honors and was invited to play in the Georgia-Florida All-Star game. He led his team to two consecutive Class AA state titles during his junior and senior seasons.

Pope registered seven touchdowns as a tight end, catching eight passes with a pair of touchdowns in the playoffs as a senior. He also returned an interception for a score while lining up at safety that year. As a junior, Pope caught 25 passes for 491 yards and six touchdowns. "We always saw an unlimited potential for Pope," said Erik Soliday, who coached Pope at Americus his final three years. "To get where he is as quick as he has, I don't know if anyone saw that coming. He's just an extremely talented kid."

Heavily recruited out of high school, academic problems forced Pope to attend Hargrave Military Academy in 2002, where he was a roommate of Virginia linebacker Ahmad Brooks. Pope describes the Hargrave experience as a "tough and crazy year," where time stood still and the only way home was a Greyhound bus. "Minutes were like hours," Pope said. "I hated it with a passion. I was like 13 hours from my house."

Pope wasn't fond of the regimented lifestyle of military school, and found himself a long way from the comforts of home, including his kitchen.

"He used to come to my room to try and get snacks," said Brooks, a Butkus Award finalist last year who became close friends with Pope. "Hargrave was a learning experience. We had to get our SAT scores. We were like a family, picking each other up and encouraging each other to do good, on and off the field."

Brooks earned his qualifying score fall semester and left Hargrave. Pope remained behind, still trying to land his one-way ticket out. He dreaded having to return. "When he left, I cried because I was the first one back on the Greyhound," Pope said. "I always thought in my mind, 'If I had a chance, what would I do with it?' "

With his academics now in order, Pope enrolled at Georgia in 2003. He appeared in every game as reserve tight end, but only had one catch for 21 yards. He started ten contests in 2004, grabbing 25 passes for 482 yards (19.3 avg) and six touchdowns.

Pope was a unanimous All-Southeastern Conference selection in 2005. He started eleven games, missing the Louisiana-Monroe contest when head coach Mark Richt suspended him for a dorm room incident. He ranked second on the team with 33 receptions for 491 yards (14.9 avg) and three touchdowns. In 35 games with the Bulldogs, Pope started 21 times. He gained 994 yards with nine touchdowns on 59 catches (16.8 avg).

Analysis

Positives: Has a tall, thick frame with good overall muscle development, long limbs, split high, thick bubble and hamstrings and large hands … Shows the lateral range to escape and get up field quickly in his initial release and has the size and strength to defeat the jam … His routes could be crisper, but he is alert to sticks and does a good job getting up the seam to attack the zone … Can settle in the soft spot and is a big target underneath who shows the awareness needed to uncover … Has more than enough leg drive and initial burst to separate in his routes and is a powerful runner who can punish defensive backs who get in his way (see 2005 Tennessee game) … Has the ability to extend and secure the ball outside the frame … Will compete for the ball in traffic and has the leaping ability to make plays on the ball at its high point … Despite some hip tightness, he plays with good body control to adjust and position before making the catch.

Negatives: Still maturing body-wise and looks a bit lean, but generates good lower body power to break arm tackles … Struggles academically and is not always alert to pick up twists and games when working as a blocker … Needs to do a better job of keeping his feet and staying lower in his pads when blocking in-line (will get over-extended and leaves his feet quite a bit) … Has the adjustment skills to pick up second-level defenders, but needs to move his feet better in order to sustain … Had one off-field incident that saw him get suspended for the 2005 Louisiana-Monroe game, but the coaches vouch for his character and work ethic … Must play with better control and alertness, as his high amount of penalties (false starts, holding) have proven costly.

Pope is a very tall, long-legged athlete with valid speed, strength and hands. He has a basketball player's frame with excellent arm length and good overall muscle development. He has a thick bubble and hamstrings and a frame that can carry at least another twenty pounds of bulk with no loss in speed.

Despite his long stride, Pope has good quickness and speed to get downfield and separate underneath. He showed great improvement in his route running as a junior, showing much better flexibility to adjust and make plays on the ball. He has a good burst off the line and the pick up speed to beat linebackers going up the seam.

Pope is still a work in progress with the mental aspect of the game. While he shows good urgency getting to the ball, he has been prone to costly penalties the past few years and continues to struggle academically. He might not be able to grasp a complicated playbook, but is a coachable athlete with a good attitude.

Pope demonstrates the quickness and lateral range to escape and get up field. He is quick to reach the second level, but will struggle a bit to stay low in his pads when asked to work in-line. He uses his hands well to play off the jam and has the ability to avoid and uncover quickly. His power and upper body strength prevent defenders from rerouting him, but he cannot be considered a deep threat as he looks a little tight in his hips, which prevents him from planting and driving sharply out of his breaks.

His route running could be crisper, but he has the athletic ability to separate in the short area. Pope has good patience vs. zone coverage, but does shuffle his feet and gear down some in his cuts. Still, he gets decent depth on the flat routes and can clear when working through the zone. He also shows good pick-up speed and is a very big target who has become reliable on underneath routes because of his ability to uncover, sit down and separate while making proper body adjustments.

Pope has the long arms and valid hands to extend and secure the ball away from his frame. He will have a few concentration lapses, resulting in drops of some easy passes, but will compete for the ball in a crowd. The thing you see on film is the urgency and aggression he displays in attempts to finish the play. He has good hand/eye coordination and the rangy hands to catch with defenders on him.

On deep routes, Pope is more quick than fast, but his long legs and stride let him get down the field and settle into the zone, but he is really not used much on long distance throws. He has enough pick-up speed to get down the middle and stretch the defense, but looks like he struggles when having to turn his head and track the ball in over his shoulder. He is best when working underneath, using his size to create mismatches and get behind the defender to stretch the field.

The thing you notice on film is he plays with good body control. He shows the ball skills to gain position and make the catch underneath. He has quick reactions on the tipped ball and has the hand range to extend and pluck the ball at its high point. He generates great leg drive to break tackles after the catch. It is nearly impossible to bring him down in isolated coverage due to his strength and quickness and he uses his size well to push the ball up field.

Pope has adequate technique as an in-line blocker, but will sometimes overextend and leave his feet behind. He has good hand reach, but loses position late and has to keep his feet under him or he will buckle. He plays with much better leverage as a cut blocker than at the line of scrimmage. He is best when making adjustments on the move and Pope can pick up linebackers easily when working in space. He has the athletic ability to adjust and pick up downfield defenders, but needs to move his feet better in order to sustain.

Career Notes

The two-year starter hauled in 59 passes for 994 yards (16.8 avg) and nine touchdowns in 35 games for the Bulldogs … In 2005, Pope and Martinez Milner accounted for 47 catches for 782 yards and five touchdowns (26 percent of the team's receptions) … Those totals were the highest of any tight end tandem in the Southeastern Conference for the season and ranks as the third-best season for tight ends in Georgia annals, topped only by Jermaine Wiggins and Larry Brown (56 of 190 receptions, 29 percent in 1998) and Randy McMichael and Jevaris Johnson (65 of 211 receptions, 29 percent in 1999).

2005 Season

Unanimous All-Southeastern Conference first-team choice … On the Mackey Award Watch List, given to the nation's top tight end … Named the team's Best All-Around Offensive Player … Started eleven games, missing the Louisiana-Monroe contest when he was suspended due to a team rules violation … Ranked second on the team with a career-high 33 receptions for 491 yards (14.9 avg) and three touchdowns, just missing (by two catches) in becoming the first tight end to lead the team in receptions during a season since Kirk Warner had 30 catches in 1989 … Of the 55 passes targeted to Pope, 21 resulted in first downs, with two coming on fourth-down plays and three others on third-down … Had eight receptions for 20 yards or longer … Posted 64 knockdowns with four touchdown-resulting blocks and seventeen downfield blocks, but was also penalized eight times.

2005 Game Analysis

Boise State … Opened the season with three catches for 45 yards and five knockdowns, but was also penalized for a false start in the third quarter … Had a game-long 28-yard grab in the second quarter and third quarter snatches of 6 & 11 yards to set up QB D.J. Shockley's 5-yard scoring toss to Sean Bailey that capped an 8-play, 82-yard drive.

South Carolina … Added 29 yards on three grabs and six knockdowns, but was penalized for holding in the third quarter and for a false start in the fourth quarter … Had a 16-yarder, followed by a 5-yard grab of a third--and-4 pass from QB D.J. Shockley. Two plays later, Pope leveled defensive end Adrian Coley and then took down linebacker Mike West to spring Shockley for a 15-yard run in the first quarter that concluded a 91-yard, 13-play drive.

Louisiana-Monroe … Suspended by head coach Mark Richt on September 17th for violating team rules for an incident in a campus dorm … "Pope did not get to play in the game because he had broken a rule I wasn't too pleased about," Richt said. "But he has paid his price and he'll start the next one." The news was a surprise to Georgia's players. "It was a spur of the moment thing," said tailback Danny Ware. "All of a sudden he wasn't out there." "Even with the suspension thing, he came back and thanked me for it," Richt said. "He was thankful to be back in the fold and didn't have a bitter attitude toward anything. He's got a good attitude about life. He's really grown up." Pope said the suspension caused him to refocus on football. "Every day he's getting better," tight ends coach David Johnson said. "He has that kind of attitude and comes out and works hard. I appreciate that."

Mississippi State … Did not make the coaches regret their decision to reinstate him, as he came back with three receptions for 55 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown in the second quarter … Also caught a fourth--and-5 pass from D.J. Shockley for a 34-yard gain to set up a 23-yard field goal by Brandon Coutu in the third quarter.

Tennessee … Snatched four passes for 70 yards and also made a solo tackle … Credited with six knockdowns … In the first quarter, Pope took down linebacker Omar Gaither and held off defensive Parys Haralson to spring fullback Brennan Southerland for a 1-yard touchdown run later in the first quarter, making up for allowing those two defenders to get by him earlier in the period to tackle tailback Thomas Brown for a 3-yard loss … Had a 32-yard catch, followed by a 2-yarder on a third--and-goal play to set up a Georgia 18-yard field goal in the second quarter … In the third quarter, Pope caught a first--and-5 pass from QB D.J. Shockley and turned up field. He gained 27 yards on the play, but along the way, was met by cornerback Jason Allen. Pope lowered his pads and drove through Allen's tackle attempt, but when doing so, Allen's left leg jutted out into the path on the tight end and the collision caused Allen to suffered a fractured bone and dislocated hip, ending the Tennessee defender's season. The 27-yarder set up a 25-yard field goal by Brandon Coutu … In the fourth quarter, Shockley gained 14 yards on a draw play, but defensive tackle Jesse Mahelona caused a fumble and cornerback Inquoris Johnson recovered the ball, gaining ten yards before Pope tackled the defender at the UT 27.

Vanderbilt … Held to a 26-yard catch and also missed a block on linebacker Moses Osemwegie on the game's opening drive, resulting in tailback Thomas Brown getting tackled for a 1-yard loss … Osemwegie also slipped past Pope to pressure QB D.J. Shockley on a third--and-13 pass midway through the first quarter, forcing the Bulldogs to punt … Pope was penalized 10 yards for an illegal block on that linebacker during a fourth quarter 5-yard pass from Shockley to Kregg Lumpkin, negating that play … On the Bulldogs' next drive, Osemwegie beat Pope for a jump ball and intercepted a pass thrown by Shockley with 11:51 left to play.

Arkansas … Bounced back with three catches for 37 yards and eight knockdowns, but he allowed tailback Danny Ware to get tackled for a 1-yard loss when Pope could not stop linebacker Sam Olajubutu from getting to the Georgia runner and two plays later, Pope missed a block on defensive end Jamaal Anderson, who along with Olajubutu, raced by Pope to sack QB D.J. Shockley for a 4-yard loss … Was also penalized five yards for a false start in the third quarter.

Florida … Gained 36 yards on two catches and delivered seven knockdowns … Had a 17-yard grab in the second quarter to set up a 31-yard field goal by Brandon Coutu.

Auburn … Went over 100 yards receiving for the first time in his career, hauling in eight passes for 102 yards and a 4-yard touchdown … Six of his catches resulted in first downs, with two coming on third-down plays … Had a 14-yard grab to set up Brandon Coutu's 49-yard field goal and scored on a third--and-goal toss from D.J. Shockley for a 4-yard gain in the first quarter … Added 22 and 8-yard catches in the second quarter on a 61-yard, 13-play drive that was capped by Coutu's 28-yard field goal … Was penalized five yards for a false start in the third quarter, but made up for that miscue with grabs of 7 & 9 yards before blocking defensive end Marquies Gunn on a 6-yard touchdown run by Thomas Brown that finished a 7-play, 82-yard drive with 12:33 left to play, making up for letting Shockley get sacked for a 2-yard loss by defensive end E.J. Kuale earlier on that drive … Was later penalized for pass interference with 5:45 left on the clock.

Kentucky … His only reception was good for a 10-yard touchdown … Also assisted Joe Tereshinski (backup QB) in tackling Rafael Little on a first quarter 11-yard punt return … His 10-yard scoring grab came on a fourth--and-1 toss from QB D.J. Shockley to conclude a 10-play, 72-yard drive in the second quarter.

Georgia Tech … Snared four passes for 64 yards and posted seven knockdowns … Had a 25-yard grab and on the next play, Pope leveled defensive end Eric Henderson to spring Brennan Southerland for a 1-yard touchdown run that finished an 8-play, 82-yard drive in the first quarter … Penalized five yards for a false start in the second quarter, then had a 20-yard catch with 5:31 left in the first half, but that drive stalled when Pope dropped a third--and-13 pass from D.J. Shockley.

Louisiana State (Southeastern Conference Championship) … Limited to a 17-yard catch, but did post five knockdowns … His 17-yarder set up a 51-yard field goal by Brandon Coutu in the third quarter.

2004 Season

All-Southeastern Conference first-team selection by the Associated Press and the league's coaches … Recipient of the Offensive Most Improved Player Award and the Special Teams Performance Award (for his game vs. Florida) … Also earned the team's Victors Club Award honors for outstanding grades in eight or more games … Started ten of twelve games, hauling in 25 passes for 482 yards (19.3 avg) and six touchdowns … Had at least one scoring grab in five of his last six games.

2004 Game Analysis

Georgia Southern and South Carolina … Did not catch any passes in either of the team's first two games.

Marshall … Gained 49 yards on a pair of grabs.

Louisiana State … Started, but did not have any receptions.

Tennessee … Limited to an 8-yard grab.

Vanderbilt … Made three catches for 48 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown on a third quarter strike from QB David Greene.

Arkansas … Followed with two grabs for 26 yards and a game-winning 10-yard score in a 20-14 decision.

Florida … Hauled in three passes for 90 yards … Snared a27-yard scoring pass from QB David Greene on Georgia's game-opening drive, followed by a 35-yard touchdown grab.

Kentucky … Amassed a season-high 91 yards on five catches, leaping over a pair of defenders in the corner of the end zone to haul down a 1-yard scoring lob from QB David Greene in the second quarter.

Auburn … caught three passes for 43 yards and scored the team's only points on a 6-yard touchdown pass from David Greene.

Georgia Tech … Totaled 62 yards on three catches.

Wisconsin (Outback Bowl) … Closed out the year by grabbing three passes for 65 yards.

2003 Season

Named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team by The Sporting News … Saw action in twelve games as a reserve tight end … His only reception was good for 21 yards in the Middle Tennessee contest.

2002 Season

Did not qualify academically and attended Hargrave Military Academy.

Injury Report

No injuries reported.

Agility Tests

Campus: 4.73 seconds in the 40-yard dash … 370-pound bench press … 510-pound squat … 335-pound power clean … 510-pound squat … 36-inch vertical jump … 34 7/8-inch arm length … 10-inch hands.

Combine: Benched 225 pounds 22 times. … 4.70 and 4.65 seconds in the 40-meter dash. … 37 1/2-inch vertical leap. … 9'6" broad jump.

Off-Field Issues

2005: Suspended by head coach Mark Richt for the Sept. 17 contest vs. Louisiana-Monroe after a campus dorm room incident.

High School

Attended Americus (Ga.) High School, playing football for head coach Eric Soliday …

Earned Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super Southern 100, Top 50 in Georgia, Class AA All-State, Georgia Sportswriters Association All-State honors and was invited to play in the Georgia-Florida All-Star game … Led his team to two consecutive Class AA state titles during his junior and senior seasons … Registered seven touchdowns as a tight end, catching eight passes with a pair of touchdowns in the playoffs as a senior … Also returned an interception for a score while lining up at safety that year … As a junior, Pope caught 25 passes for 491 yards and six touchdowns … "We always saw an unlimited potential for Pope," said Erik Soliday, who coached Pope at Americus his final three years. "To get where he is as quick as he has, I don't know if anyone saw that coming. He's just an extremely talented kid."

Personal

Sports Studies major … Recipient of the Elizabeth and Scott Kelly Football Scholarship …

Son of Karen Pope … Born 9/09/83 … Resides in Americus, Georgia.

 
 

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