RECRUITING: TE Has Moore Ability

He only started one season at Tennessee and lettered just twice, but tight end Dustin Moore, of Greenville, showed so much potential during his short time in the spotlight that he is remembered a decade later as much for what he might have achieved as he for what he did.

Derailed by off-the-field problems, Moore never lived up to the sparkling promise he displayed in 1996 when he developed into a reliable midrange target for Peyton Manning. Moore came to UT after playing tailback in high school but his size made him a better fit at tight end. A raw talent with speed and athleticism, Moore looked like he might become the best tight end the Vols had ever produced to that point. In an offense that used the tight end like a wide tackle, Moore was good enough to force the coaching staff to expand his role in the passing game.

Jason Witten came along in 2000 and turned in a couple of memorable campaigns with UT, leading the Vols in receiving in 2002 and elevating the tight end position in the process. He was bigger, stronger, a better blocker and probably just as fast than Moore, but he wasn't as quick or as dangerous after the catch as the Greenwood standout.

Over the past quarter century, Tennessee hasn't had any tight ends that could measure up to Witten, or Moore in terms of ability. That either shows how rare such talent is or how unfortunate the Vols have been in signing prospects of that magnitude. In truth, it's a lot closer to the former than later, although UT has certainly missed out on its share of blue chippers over the years.

That trend appears to be changing. Earlier this year UT got a commitment from Lee Smith of Knoxville Powell High School, who is rated the nation's No. 5 tight end by Scout.com. Checking in at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds with a year to grow before enrolling at Tennessee, Lee is sure to remind some of Witten as a true freshman. He doesn't have Witten's speed but he has sure hands and is a solid blocker.

While Smith reflects some of the qualities that made Witten a standout for the Vols, there is another tight end prospect UT is recruiting who is a mirror image of Moore.

Dedrick Epps a, 6-foot-4, 230-pound tight end from Huguenot High School in Richmond, Va., runs a 4.55 and can convert a short pass into a big play in nothing flat. He absorbs boring spirals like a sponge and runs routes with a smooth stride. He has excellent leaping ability and an athletic frame. He presents a big target and can make the tough catch in traffic.

He had 225 reception yards in limited opportunities as a junior, but has been a standout on the 7-on-7 passing tournament circuit this summer. He played defensive end and recorded 98 tackles for Huguenot last fall and was a starter for the varsity baseball last spring. Epps is currently rated No. 11 among the nation's tight end prospects by Scout.com and his stock continues to climb with exposure.

His downside is marginal while his ceiling is substantial. Epps needs to gain size and strength, plus the type of polish only playing time can bring. Those things can be acquired, but the tangibles he brings to the table can't be taught and that's why he's a highly sought after prospect.

With his senior season at hand, Epps can improve his ranking as his team will make more of an effort to get him the ball, but he already has some attractive offers and has narrowed his field to Tennessee, Florida, Miami, Michigan and Penn State. He has some interest in Maryland and Virginia Tech but appears to be favoring three schools.

"Miami, Penn State, and Tennessee, they all have architectural engineering as a major, which is what I plan to major in in college," he told Scout.com's Miller Safrit. "And at Penn State we always go to camp there every year, and I know some of the guys up there."

Although he hasn't scheduled any visits to this point, he is carefully considering his choices.

"I am taking it day by day and breaking down my offers and evaluating," he stated. "I am looking at Miami, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, and Penn State. I haven't talked about setting up visits yet."

If Epps becomes a Vol, who could want for Moore?


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