Austin Pope is a winner on this list not because of what he gained but because of what he didn’t lose. Tennessee football has a clear-cut No. 1 tight end this year in Dominick Wood-Anderson, a guy who was once a four-star junior college transfer, is specifically skilled in receiving but is also the biggest guy on the unit at 6’4″ 257 pounds.
However, the No. 2 spot was somewhat open after the transfer of Eli Wolf. And while Pope was the favorite for that spot, he had serious competition with true freshmen Sean Brown and Jackson Lowe, redshirt freshman Jacob Warren and redshirt sophomore Princeton Fant. All of those guys could have taken that spot.
But the 6’4″ 235-pound local product held onto his spot, and he will be on the field just behind Wood-Anderson. That’s big for a couple of reasons. First off, Jeremy Pruitt has been clear about playing multiple tight ends, and Jim Chaney has a history of doing that. Heck, the need for a fullback in the system will give Pope even more chances to be on the field.
Meanwhile, though, as a redshirt junior, Pope needed to hold onto this role so he’d be in line to start next year. Wood-Anderson is a senior, after all, so the winner for the second spot would be in line to start next year. Pruitt’s depth chart has Pope as No. 2 on the list, so he held on.