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Tennessee hires Kelsey Pope as wide receivers coach

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tennessee announced on Monday that Kelsey Pope, an offensive analyst with the team last season, has been promoted to wide receivers’ coach. Kodi Burns, last year’s WR coach, left the Vols in late February to take the same job with the New Orleans Saints.

It’s hard to ignore the excitement from the players in that video above. While hiring somebody the players like wasn’t the biggest factor in Heupel’s decision, there’s no way that kinda rapport hurt Pope’s chances.

“Kelsey was a natural fit for this role and someone our players trust and have the utmost respect for,” Heupel said via UTSports dot com. “He has a clear understanding of what it takes for our wide receivers to be successful in this offense. He knows how to connect with people and cultivate relationships, and he’s going to be a tireless recruiter.”

Pope’s resume isn’t going to blow you away, but that’s partly because he’s only been coaching full-time since 2018. Before joining Heupel’s initial staff at Tennessee last year, he was the passing game coordinator and WR coach at Gardner Webb for one season and the WR coach at Tennessee Tech for a season before that. Pope also spent one year each as the RB coach for Ohio Northern and as the assistant WR coach for a D-2 school in Georgia.

Pope was a three-time All-SoCon selection as a wide receiver for Samford and still holds the school’s all-time catches record.

Outside of DL coach Charlie Garner, Heupel’s staff doesn’t have many guys known to be ace recruiters, so maybe that’s a role Tennessee’s head coach sees Pope growing into.

The Volunteer WRs were better by leaps and bounds last season than they’d been under the previous staff, and I reckon Heupel thinks Pope can keep that trend going.

Other than Velus Jones and JaVonta Payton, Tennessee returns all of its key producers at the WR spot from last season.