2018 re­cruit­ing class rises to No. 2 rank­ing,

State’s top-ranked tight end Epps says he’ll play for UT.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Mike Craven mcraven@states­man.com

In one week, Texas’ 2018 re­cruit­ing class has gone from lack­ing to stacked at the tight end po­si­tion.

On Aug. 1, Do­minick Wood-An­der­son — the na­tion’s No. 1-ranked ju­nior col­lege tight end — picked Texas over Alabama and Louisville. On Tues­day, Spring DeKaney’s Mal­colm Epps — the state’s top-rated tight end — chose the Longhorns over Texas A&M, Alabama and Florida State.

Epps is the 17th pledge for Texas, which is ex­pected to sign about 22 play­ers in 2018. Epps’ com­mit­ment leaves five spots open; the Longhorns want pledges from an­other wide re­ceiver, one more of­fen­sive line­man, one more de­fen­sive line­man and a pair of cor­ner­backs be­fore turn­ing their at­ten­tion fully to the 2019 class.

They’re prob­a­bly done with tight ends. Wood-An­der­son gives them a player who can com­pete for a start­ing spot as soon as he ar­rives on cam­pus while Epps of­fers longterm po­ten­tial and a unique skill set.

Tues­day’s com­mit­ment boosted Texas’ class to No. 2 in the na­tional rank­ings, trail­ing only Ohio State, per 247Sports’ com­pos­ite rat­ings.

Epps, at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, of­fers a blend of ath­leti­cism and size rarely found at the high school level. For­mer bas­ket­ball play­ers have found a path to the NFL by trad­ing in dunks for touch­down catches; Epps hopes to be ahead of the curve, phys­i­cally re­sem­bling a small for­ward more than a foot­ball player.

Still, he’s not a three-down tight end yet. Epps lacks the phys­i­cal­ity and bulk to be an ef­fec­tive in-line blocker at the col­lege level. Growth is pos­si­ble as he gets older and spends time in a col­lege weight pro­gram.

He’s not an elite re­cruit be­cause of those block­ing skills, but Epps — who once was com­mit­ted to Alabama — is wanted by ma­jor col­leges be­cause of the po­ten­tial matchup night­mares he can cre­ate.

His spe­cialty, at least early, will be as a tall, lanky weapon on third downs and in the red zone.

Epps can line up as a tra­di­tional tight end, flex out as a wide re­ceiver or play H-back, much like 2017 signee Cade Brewer. Epps has a good shot at carv­ing out a role if he con­tin­ues to im­prove his all-around game.

Six of Texas’ 17 pledges are from the Hous­ton area; like the oth­ers, Epps first built a re­la­tion­ship with Her­man and most of his staff while they coached at Hous­ton. The Longhorns signed two tight ends in 2017 and brought in a grad­u­ate trans­fer this sum­mer.

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