Top TEs, picks 1-5

Where do you go to find a quality tight end prospect? If you're the Tennessee Volunteers, you go to your defensive end corps. That's where the Big Orange located two of the finest tight ends in program history.

Both Jason Witten (Elizabethton) and Dustin Moore (Greeneville) grew up within shouting distance of Knoxville. Both were enjoying modest success as reserve defensive linemen when they were re-assigned to offense. Both had misgivings but both wound up flourishing at tight end.

In my opinion Witten and Moore were two of the five best tight ends the Vols produced during the modern era (1964-2004). Here's a look at my complete top five:

5. MARK ADAMS: A three-year starter (1989-1990-1991), the 6-4, 245-pound Adams caught 52 career balls for 573 yards, including 24 for 217 yards as a senior. He combined with backup Von Reeves to give UT its most productive 1-2 punch ever at tight end.

4. REGGIE HARPER: A better receiver than blocker, this 6-2, 230-pounder started in '77, '78, '79 and '80. He led Tennessee in receptions as a freshman (30) and sophomore (31), made All-SEC as a junior, then struggled with injuries as a senior.

3. DUSTIN MOORE: A converted defensive end, this fleet-footed 6-3, 250-pounder probably had more talent than anyone ever to play tight end at Tennessee. Despite so-so hands, he made nine catches for 100 yards as freshman in 1995 and 18 for 201 as sophomore. He was dismissed from the team prior to his junior year, bringing a sad end to a potentially brilliant career.

2. AUSTIN DENNEY: He earned All-America honors after leading the 1966 Vols in scoring with 42 points on seven touchdown catches. Denney, who was an All-SEC selection as a junior in '65, went on to play five years in the NFL.

1. JASON WITTEN: He wore No. 1 because he wanted to be the next Leonard Little, but Witten's career as a UT defensive player was short-lived. Moved to tight end, he quickly found a home. His 125 receiving yards in the 2001 Citrus Bowl vs. Michigan were the most ever by a UT tight end. Witten caught 39 passes for 493 yards and 5 TDs in 2002, surpassing the CAREER numbers of most Vol tight ends Although he left for the NFL following his junior year, the 6-5, 265-pounder compiled 68 catches for 797 yards and 7 touchdowns during his Vol career. He has gone on to establish himself as one of the top young tight ends in the NFL.


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