Marquan Pope’s college career has come to an abrupt and heartbreaking end before it could even begin, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi announced at the ACC Media Days Thursday.
Pope suffered a cervical spine injury, McGonigal reported, that he first suffered while in his high school days. When he suffered the same injury during Pitt’s spring practice, he had it evaluated and taken care of by Pitt’s medical staff, but it was enough to officially end his playing career.
“So Marquan will not play for us,” Narduzzi said. “But he’s doing a great job coaching for us. He’s an assistant linebacker coach helping coach Manalac, and he’s a super kid. Great family. I feel sorry for the family. They wanted to come to games and watch Marquan play. And they’ll now watch him coach. And I think he may get into coaching one day.”
Following up on this, freshman linebacker Marquan Pope suffered a spine injury during spring camp that will prohibit him from playing at Pitt. He will remain with the team on a medical scholarship and has taken to coaching. Full explanation on the situation from Pat Narduzzi: pic.twitter.com/qYgD32Knxn
— Johnny McGonigal (@jmcgonigal9) July 21, 2022
Pope, a three-star early enrollee linebacker out of Denton Guyer High School in Texas, arrived at Pitt as an early enrollee in January, after originally not expecting to arrive in Pittsburgh before the summer. It’s a crushing blow for Pope and all of those in his corner as the talented defender goes through a tough transition.
Pope didn’t take much convincing from Narduzzi and linebackers coach Ryan Manalac to change his mind and head to Pitt early, deciding that it was best to come up to Pitt and integrate into the University and the football team — which only showed his excitement and dedication to Pitt football.
While Narduzzi and Pitt’s coaches stressed the importance of care in practice, spring practice especially, it’s inevitable that injuries will sometimes occur at some level through any course of the season. It’s just unfortunate that Pope’s injury occurred at all — let alone during spring practices.
The coaching staff lauded Pope’s early returns, pointing to his work at the Star linebacker position as a positive through the early portions of spring practices. And it appeared that Pope was well upon his way toward competing for playing time as a true freshman in 2022.
While Pope will not play football at Pitt, that doesn’t mean he will not be a part of the team. He will continue to be around the team as an assistant linebackers coach under Ryan Manalac on a medical scholarship.
In looking back at the football side of Pope’s injury, his career-ending injury leaves a hole in the depth this season and beyond. Pope was expected to add depth in 2022 and compete for increased playing time as his career winded on, and now Pitt will be forced to either dip back into the transfer portal or look for an in-house replacement.
While Pitt has honed in upon the top-deep at linebacker, especially with the addition of Missouri State transfer Tylar Wiltz, Pope’s loss could offer the chance to dip back into the transfer portal this summer.