KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee wide receivers coach Kelsey Pope is still reeling in the reality of taking over the Vols wide receivers room this season. The 30-year-old reflected on the moment he was introduced to the team March 7 as a new position coach.
“It was good. I feel like I still haven’t come down from it,” Pope said. “We kind of have been 90 miles an hour since then.
“Honestly, the biggest thing I took from that was the kids and their reactions. That gave me a ton of joy knowing that those guys had that confidence in me, and they were going to bat for me wanting me to be their guy. That was the most fulfilling part of it all.”
Pope worked closely with the unit as an offensive analyst last season, so his transition to his new role has been “seamless.”
“They’ve responded really well,” he said. “I’ve been super pleased as a position coach to have a group bought into what I’m about.”
Pope takes over for Kodi Burns who accepted the same role with the New Orleans Saints. Pope has leaned on Burns as a friend, bouncing ideas off of each other to have success on the field and in life.
“Who we are at the core, is similar,” Pope said of Burns. “I think we do a great job staying in touch and pouring into each other that way. I talk to him about once a week.”
The new UT position coach integrates teaching styles he has learned from other coaches while adding his own coaching philosophies to the wide receiver room.
“I think no matter where you are or who you’re around, you’re going to learn something from everybody,” Pope said. “I think there is a duality in that, you always have to be yourself also. So, you do pull things that you learn, that you get from other people, but I still always have to be myself and do it in a mode where I’m still me because the kids recognize that.”
Pope can be heard coaching from the sidelines at practice, animated in his work. Pope describes himself as a “drill sergeant” at times, but also knows when to scale it back – an aspect of coaching he picked up from Burns.
“I think one thing that coach Kodi Burns did well is that he had a great pulse of when to press the gas and when to pull off,” Pope said. “A lot of times in a drill it’s been rapid and intense, and you don’t want to be too pushy. You still want guys to be able to hear you. So, in the next drill, if we have something similar or a mistake you may see me grab guys and talk to them and be more intentional and intimate with them. I think having that ability to change paces and being able to feel the group is something important I’ve learned from him.”