Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Spartans among top linebackers final prospects

February 18, 2002

The No. 1 community college linebacker in America may come to MSU, and his decision could come as early as today.

Rivals.com has Derrick Pope, a 6-foot-1, 218-pound linebacker from Garden City Community College in Kansas, the top Juco linebacker in the nation.

Sunday, Pope listed MSU, Arkansas and Florida as his finalists. He said he planned to talk with each coach on the phone today before making his decision.

“They all have offered the same amount of playing time,” the National Junior College Athletic Association First Team All-American said.

MidwestRecruiting.com analyst Bill Kurelic said Pope would bring a punishing style of play to the Spartans defense.

“He’s probably best as a run-stopper,” Kurelic said.

Pope’s search involves both academics and athletics.

If he says yes to the green and white, Pope said all of his community college credits will transfer. But if he decides on Arkansas or Florida, he said he’ll need to take summer classes to be academically aligned with his fellow classmates.

Last week, Pope enjoyed a two-day stay on campus he labeled as “fun.” During Tuesday’s MSU-Illinois basketball game, Pope was honored with chants from the Izzone.

“It feels good to me. I’m not used to that,” Pope said. “But I guess the players up there are used to that.”

Pope said his school of choice will be one he thinks has a chance of winning championships. He also looks to the school that will help him advance as an NFL prospect.

“It’s kind of important,” Pope said. “That’s my goal, but you can’t always rely on that, you need something to fall back on.”

With the addition of Pope, MSU would add depth to a middle linebacker position currently manned by redshirt-freshman Seth Mitchell. But his addition would add stability there with the threat of injuries.

Originally, Pope had verbally committed to Alabama, but when the NCAA slapped the Crimson Tide with a five-year probation for repeat violations Feb. 1, Pope left his recruiting status open.

With the addition of Pope, MSU’s total defensive recruits would be six.

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