The Texas Longhorns are quite literally enjoying a sizable luxury this spring.
Texas’ star X receiver, the 6’6, 220-pound Collin Johnson, has spent has spent his spring recovering from an offseason knee surgery, but in his place, the Horns have simply plugged in an even more imposing presence — 6’6, 245-pound Malcolm Epps.
But Epps has been more than a mere big body filling in for a sitting starter. He’s blossoming into a big-play threat throughout his first spring on the Forty Acres.
“He probably had the most big plays of the receiving group,” Tom Herman said of Epps following Texas’ scrimmage on Saturday, per Inside Texas’ Joe Cook. “Keaontay (Ingram) and Jordan (Whittington) had some big plays. Kirk Johnson had a big play. Running back group was fairly explosive today at times, but Malcolm… if you cover him one-on-one that’s a tough match-up.”
Moments later, when asked which wide receiver impressed on Saturday, Herman echoed his own sentiment with one quick name: “Malcolm.”
The praise being pointed in Epps’ direction is especially intriguing for a number of reasons.
At this time last year, Epps was a towering, yet lanky tight end prospect out of Houston Dekaney; albeit an Under Armour All-American tight end prospect. Of the three Texas tight ends currently on campus — Cade Brewer, Reese Leitao, and Jared Wiley — competing for the vacancy team captain and first-team All-Big 12 selection Andrew Beck left behind, none arrived in Austin more highly-touted than Epps, who was dubbed as the 10th-best tight end prospect in the 2018 class, per the 247Sports Composite.
Epps’ size skill set made for a seemingly ideal fit to ultimately fill the aforementioned role Beck occupied in 2018, yet once Epps actually arrived in Austin, he began to be molded as more of a hybrid receiver-tight end.
On the surface, Epps owns the size and pass-catching upside to make the transition successfully, but after hauling in just one reception for 18 yards in 2018, the redshirt freshman entered this spring as part of a wide receiver room that featured plenty of other prolific, former high school All-American pass catchers, such as Brennan Eagles, Bru McCoy, and Al’Vonte Woodard.
Nevertheless, despite the options on hand, it’s been Epps who’s earning first-team reps in Johnson’s absence, and not only that, but he’s excelling in that role.
Of course, Johnson’s return will restore order to the rotation in time for the 2019 season, but in the meantime, the redshirt freshman Epps is making the most of an unexpected opportunity and earning praise from the Horns’ head coach.