For the third and final time in our 2020 scouting report series, we settled in virtually for a Buford Wolves football game, as the powerhouse in the state of Georgia looked for their 13th state championship in school history and their first in the 6A classification in year one in the division. We at the Heel Tough Blog used it as one last chance to get a look at 2022 Tar Heel targets Ryland Gandy and Jake Pope.
Let’s start with Gandy, who we took our first look at in the state semifinals ten days prior. The Lee County team that he and the Wolves faced on Tuesday night wasn’t quite as pass heavy as the Valdosta team that they faced in the semifinals, so Gandy wasn’t tested quite as often. He was targeted just three times in coverage, allowing two of those passes to be caught. The one issue is that Gandy was beat over the top in 1-on-1 coverage once again a couple of times, something that was an issue for him against Valdosta, as well. Gandy is still a more than capable man-coverage corner, but this is something to monitor. To be fair to him, corner might be the toughest position to scout on a live stream because of the tight camera angles, so it’s hard to judge him solely off of what we saw in these last two games.
As for Pope, we got our first look at him in the Wolves’ second round playoff win over Cambridge and he had a phenomenal showing in that one. While he wasn’t quite as impactful in this one, he made the biggest play of the season. After picking up a first down on a 3rd down in overtime with Buford up 34-31, Lee County, needing a touchdown to win, was on the doorstep of the state title, as they had the ball at the Buford 4-yard line and a goal-to-go situation. South Carolina running back commit Caleb McDowell, who had put together a stellar performance to that point, was heading towards the end zone, when Pope was able to punch the ball free. Buford defensive lineman River Wilson was able to jump on the loose football to hand the Wolves their second straight state championship trophy. Prior to that, Pope had totaled just three tackles on the night defensively and, despite coming in as the team’s leading receiver had caught just two passes for 13 yards on the offensive side. When he needed to step up and make a play he did.
In both games that we scouted him in this season, Pope really made a nice impression. He has consistently shown, not just in the games that we’ve scouted him in, that he is a defensive playmaker and that is something that this Tar Heel defense is still in search of. Once again, he impressed with his ability to succeed constantly in 1-on-1 coverage, something that Jay Bateman’s defense demands a lot of. Tonight showed that he will have to add some more strength in the weight room to be able to help in the run game, especially against bigger backs, but there is a lot to like about what Pope brings to the table.
With this game in the books, we have officially wrapped up our 2020 edition of the scouting reports. The plan is to return in the spring of 2021 when the states of North Carolina and Virginia are expected to return to the field after delaying the season from the fall due concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those who we will be hoping to get a look at in the spring are 2021 signees like Kamarro Edmonds and Gabe Stephens and 2022 and 2023 targets like George Pettaway, Rico Walker and others.