One day after picking up a big pledge from the state’s top defensive tackle, Keondre Coburn, the Texas Longhorns added another key piece to the 2018 recruiting class in Spring Dekaney tight end Malcolm Epps, who announced his commitment to the Longhorns:
“I committed because there is no place like home,” Epps told Horns247. “I want to be the hometown hero. It’s time to put UT back on the map.”
For weeks, the 6’5.5, 218-pounder loomed as one of the top candidates to join the #RevolUTion18 for weeks before deciding to give his verbal pledge to tight ends coach Corby Meekins.
On Tuesday, it finally happened, long after other contenders had seemingly fallen out of the mix — the 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions for Epps were unanimous in favor of Texas since early June, following a perceived surge by Texas A&M throughout the spring.
Epps initially committed to Alabama at a Junior Day in February of 2016, before he had even played his junior season, but opted to back out of that pledge in less than a year later.
The consensus four-star prospect also held offers from Florida State, Georgia Tech, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, and Ohio State and ranks as the No. 180 player nationally, the No. 7 tight end, and the No. 22 player in the state, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
The decision by Epps gives the Longhorns two tight end commitments in the 2018 class, as the consensus No. 1 junior college tight end, Dominick Wood-Anderson, pledged to Texas on August 1.
And there’s a nice balance with the two players, as well — much like the 2017 recruiting class, Epps provides Texas with a pure pass catcher who could eventually emerge as a credible blocking threat with some strength development, like Cade Brewer, while Wood-Anderson is an instant-impact player in both phases, similar to Reese Leitao.
The difference is that the two commits in the current cycle are much more highly regarded than Brewer and Leitao were coming out of high school, which is a credit to the recruiting work of Meekins.
Of course, Meekins deserves plenty of plaudits for managing to land two talented tight ends in the 2017 class in the limited amount of time available to him.
The bottom line is that the two players currently on campus and the two players set to join the program in 2018 have completely changed the long-term outlook for the tight end position.
As mentioned earlier, Epps is more of a receiving threat right now than a blocking threat at 218 pounds. In fact, he’s also a basketball player who has an offer to play for Shaka Smart and the ‘Horns and looks the part — he’s long and lean with a frame that may never be imposing, but has plenty of room for growth.
Until the point at which Epps can hold up at the point of attack, he’ll likely serve as an H-back or flex out as a wide receiver, where his height would make him a mismatch against linebackers or nickel backs.
In jump-ball situations, the basketball background of Epps stands out — whether it’s recovering an onside kick attempt or beating out opposing defenders, the Dekaney product consistently attacks the football at its highest point, effectively utilizing his long arms to extend his catch radius.
In testing situations, Epps doesn’t stand out with elite speed, agility, or explosiveness, but he should become a seam-stretching threat in college because of his height and solid movement skills in pads, especially in play-action situations.
And although Epps doesn’t test as well as fellow Houston-area product Mustapha Muhammad and isn’t as highly considered in the rankings as Illinois native Luke Ford, the bottom line is that Texas wasn’t considered an exceptionally strong contender for either recruit.
As a result, taking a commitment from Epps and likely shutting down recruiting efforts at the tight end position made a tremendous amount of sense for the Longhorns coaching staff.
Epps is now the 17th pledge for the ‘Horns in the 2018 class, which now ranks No. 2 nationally and No. 1 in the Big 12, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.