Recruiting Week In Review

March 12, 2017

Written by Joe Bradshaw

Spring practice has begun at Notre Dame and that’s the coaching staff’s primary focus right now.  Of course, spring football is also a recruiting opportunity as well and given the energy with which the Irish staff has approached recruiting it’s a virtual certainty that they will use it to the maximum effect.  Notre Dame has set its sights high in recruiting, pursuing some of the most highly sought after players in the Class of 2018.  Last week Irish Sports Daily reported on two recruits whose skill, athleticism, versatility and intelligence make them a perfect fit for the Irish.  What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Sports Daily?

K’Vaughan Pope, ATH, 6-2, 210, Dinwiddie High School, Dinwiddie, VA is a lock to play big time college football.  The only real question besides where he will play is what position he will play.  According to his head coach, Billy Mills, Pope can do it all and does. 

“You look at his stats and he pretty much has a stat in every category we’ve got,” he said.  “He was either first or second in receptions and yardage.  He made tough catches.  People were doubling him and he’d go up and make plays.”

Mills continued. 

“He could play inside at tight end with his hand on the ground or flex out and play wide receiver.  He ran the ball, he had a reverse for a touchdown earlier in the year.  He was our I-Back in our three back set, so he had two or three rushing touchdowns over the year and broke one for like 40, 50 yards for a touchdown in the playoffs.”

Mills knows that it’s Pope’s extraordinary athleticism that sets him apart from others and enables him to do all the things he does. 

“He’s just so explosive of an athlete,” he said.  “He goes from A to B faster than anyone I’ve ever had.  He power cleaned 355 a year ago.  I was just attending a clinic with a Division I coach talking about all of his guys cleaning 270.  This kid is college ready right now.”

One of the positions at which Pope excels and for which most colleges are recruiting him is linebacker.  At that position, he makes his presence known all over the field. 

“He scored four defensive touchdowns, one on a fumble recovery and three on interceptions,” Mills shared.  “He had six interceptions at middle linebacker.  He had an 87 yard interception return on a play where he was spying the quarterback in the playoffs and jumped up and tapped the ball and ran it in for a touchdown.”

Colleges always know about players of Pope’s caliber and they are definitely aware of him.  In addition to Notre Dame he holds scholarship offers from Virginia, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee and many others. 

“Most people are looking at him at linebacker,” Mills said.  “There are a few schools that asked me what he wants to do, so they’re going that route with it.  I would think most people would put him at linebacker.” 

If Pope has a position preference, he isn’t making it known.  According to Mills that’s not really out of character for the four-star athlete.

“I’ve never had a kid who’s been so humble through this whole process,” he said.  “He lets me know when people offer him, but that’s pretty much it.  He keeps his head going in the right direction, stays focused on what he’s got to do and doesn’t really get caught up in it.  He’s a dream to coach.” 

For now, Pope is much more concerned about getting his team back to the state title game than anything else. Clearly, he feels he has unfinished business.

“He was a leader last year,” Mills said.  “We lost in the state championship, our first loss all year and it came down to the last play.  As a coach you can gauge where people are at.  He took it worse than even a lot of my coaches took it.  He wants to win.  He’s the epitome of a team player.  That’s great when you’ve got a kid with that much talent who can make a difference like that and also be one of your leaders and do it by example.”

Much like Pope, Thomas Booker, ATH, 6-5, 280, Gilman School, Baltimore, MD is very positionally flexible.  He plays both ways for Gilman and could transition into a number of different positions in college. 

“He’s a terrific athlete, so that’s a good place to start,” said Gilman Head Coach Tim Holley.  “I think it also helps that he’s 6-5 and 280.  He’s a track athlete as well, so he’s an all-around legitimate athlete, not just a big body.  I think he can play in a lot of different places.  For us, he’s been a tight end on offense and a defensive end on defense.  He’s got very nice hands.  He’s a big high school tight end of course, but he’s got athletic ability.”

According to Holley, Booker’s greatest talent may not even be on the football field. 

“He’s also a terrific student,” he shared.  “He’s in the top ten percent of his class.  And he’s a wonderful kid and all that too.  Good kid with a good family.”

At the college level, most project Booker as a defensive player. 

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“I think it depends on where he goes,” Holley said.  “I think he can be an asset offensively or defensively.  I think most of the people we talk to are looking at him as a defensive player, but again it depends on where he wants to go and where he fits in.”

Booker holds offers from the most elite college football programs including Notre Dame, Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, LSU and many others.  According to Holley, his final destination will depend upon where he finds a fit, both athletically and academically.

“I think right now he’s just looking at his options and weighing them,” Holley explained.  “He’s been on some college visits with his parents and trying to get a feel for places and philosophies, looking at different universities and what their points of emphasis are and how they fit with his academic goals.” 

Holley continued.

“I think, systematically, the family is just trying to weigh its options to see the best possible fit and not ruling out any options.  They’re keeping an open mind to decide what might be the best place for Thomas to pursue all of his interests on the field and off.” 

Booker is truly a product of Gilman School, having attended it his entire school career, beginning even before kindergarten.  Gilman’s emphasis on academics has played a big role in developing the four-star athlete even more as a person than as a player.

“The family bought into the tradition of strong academics and strong athletics and excellence in being your best self and those kinds of things,” Holley said.  “He’s been reared here at Gilman and bought into the philosophy of the school, mind, body and spirit.” 

Despite all the recruiting attention, Holley says that Booker’s family has kept him grounded.

“They make sure he knows he’s been blessed with a lot of things,” Holley shared.  “His parents have done well and he lives a good life.  He has an older sister, who I think is also influential in keeping him grounded.  She went to Princeton University, graduated and is now at Duke Law School.  They’re not getting caught up in all the accoutrements of big time college athletics.  They’re really interest in finding a place where Thomas can thrive as a student-athlete with a lot of emphasis on student.” 

Because of Booker’s and his family’s priorities, Holley believes that Notre Dame will get a long, hard look.

“If you’re asking me I know Notre Dame has all of the attractions that a family like the Bookers would be interested in; very strong academics, great alumni networking, obviously a great football program,” Holley shared.  “I think the tradition at Notre Dame is a very attractive thing.” 

Though the Bookers have yet to set up a visit to Notre Dame, Holley is confident they will at some point.

“They have not shared that with me, so I don’t know when that’s in the cards, but again I know they are weighing as much as humanely possible,” he said.  “The obviously can’t visit every place, but they’re weighing all of their options and they want to see where people are and where the fit might be.” 

Holley has been coaching Booker since eighth grade and played high school football with his father at Gilman.  Suffice it to say he knows both Thomas and the family very well.

“He’s kind of a coach’s dream,” Holley said.  “He’s got all of the tickets punched which is a beautiful thing.”

These two summaries represent just a sample of the Notre Dame football recruiting information available each week on Irish Sports Daily. If you enjoyed it, please use the Facebook and Twitter buttons below to share

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