It’s hard to find anybody who has been as recruited as long or as fiercely as 5* LB Owen Pappoe. The Georgia native received his first offer back in 8th grade. Auburn was the 4th team to offer him way back in 2015 when Will Muschamp was losing his mind on the sidelines.
Blessed my 4th offer from Auburn University @Coach_LThompson @ErikRichardsUSA @futurestarsgame @AlPopsScouting pic.twitter.com/5HLZ1MUi5Z— Owen Pappoe (@opfreak15) April 30, 2015
In fact, as only an 8th grader Pappoe attended one of Auburn’s Junior Day events back in 2015. That’s something you don’t see very often. Obviously, being recruited that long results in plenty of drama. Pappoe has at various points in his recruitment appeared set to commit to Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Florida State and Tennessee. To his credit, he never actually pulled the trigger, waiting instead to make sure he was absolutely certain before going public with a commitment. That certainty came May 1st this year when Pappoe picked Auburn over Georgia and Tennessee.
C O M M I T E D pic.twitter.com/GMLf0rLT10— Owen Pappoe (@opfreak15) May 1, 2018
The Vols, however, never relented in their pursuit and were almost rewarded. When Gus Malzahn lost to Tennessee in early October, things got bumpy in Pappoe’s recruitment. He started showing up a lot more in Knoxville, including attending a UT/Charlotte game instead of his previously scheduled visit to the Plains for their showdown with Texas A&M. All the chatter about Gus’s job security had Pappoe rethinking his initial decision and it appeared Jeremy Pruitt was about to pull of his biggest flip as a head coach as Pappoe was set to take an official visit to Tennessee two weekends ago.
But an in home visit shut everything down.
Let me clear things up...I am 100% committed to Auburn!!! War Eagle pic.twitter.com/2L1UcVVFFF— Owen Pappoe (@opfreak15) December 5, 2018
After visiting with Gus Malzahn and Travis Williams, Pappoe publicly reaffirmed his Auburn pledge, canceled his Tennessee visit and shut down his recruitment. Today, he signed with the Tigers.
Welcome to the #AuburnFamily @opfreak15! ✍️— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) December 19, 2018
#WarEagle | #AUNSD19 pic.twitter.com/Whbderwbnh
Give Travis Williams a boatload of credit in this recruitment. It’s that relationship that trumped every other pitch of every other top program. Make no mistake, anybody and everybody wanted this dude. Georgia thought they had Pappoe locked up until a week more his announcement. It’s unquestionably T-WILL’s biggest win on the trail yet.
So why all this hype? Well he’s not nicknamed “Freak” for no reason. Pappoe put up the best ever SPARQ score at The Opening Regional in Charlotte, NC earlier this summer. He’s undoubtedly the best all around athlete in this class.
Auburn can line Pappoe up all over the field. For Grayson High School, he was typically tasked with taking away the opponent’s strength. Facing a team that loves to throw the bubble? Line Pappoe out wide to shut it down. Need to stuff a power rushing attack? Slide Pappoe in the box and let him hunt. QB getting too much time in the pocket? Send Pappoe off the edge and make that QB very uncomfortable. He has the skillset to do it all.
The only real knock on his game right now is his size. At 6’0” 210 lbs, there are some concerns that he might not be big enough to avoid the reach of those long SEC offensive tackles making him a liability in the run game. But if there’s any coach in America who can teach an undersized linebacker to dominate in the SEC it’s Travis Williams.
It will be interesting to see how Auburn uses Pappoe next season. He will absolutely have a role in the gameplan each week but what exactly is left to be seen. My guess is you might see Auburn use more 3 linebacker packages in 2019 and let Pappoe play the SAM where he can roam the field and make plays in the open space. The hope is he can grow into a Roquan Smith like presence at the 2nd level but I think his future might be more outside the box than within. Either way, he’s a day 1 impact player who will see the field early and often. Pappoe is an early enrollee so he will get a chance to compete for playing time this spring.
War Eagle Owen!