Let me make clear upfront that I believe strongly that a tight end MUST be a receiving threat. If he can't get open and/or can't catch the ball, you're playing 10 against 11 in the passing game. That's why my rankings of the Fulmer-era tight ends tend to list the guys who moved the chains ahead of the guys who didn't.
That said, here goes:
1. Jason Witten (2002): Signed as a defensive end prospect, he didn't switch to tight end until midway through his freshman year and didn't stick around for his senior year. Still, Witten may have been the finest tight end in program history. After catching one 11-yard pass as a freshman, he reeled in 28 balls for 293 yards as a sophomore and 39 for 493 yards as a junior. The 6-5, 265-pounder's career stats show 68 receptions for 797 yards and 7 touchdowns. Considering he essentially compiled those numbers in two seasons – only one as the starter – that's pretty impressive.
2. Chris Brown (2005-07): He wasn't particularly big or particularly fast but this 6-3, 240-pounder had a knack for getting open and making catches. A three-year starter, Brown finished with 92 career catches for 736 yards and 8 touchdowns. He averaged just 6.9 yards per reception as a senior (41 for 282 yards) but produced six TDs.
3. Brad Cottam (2006-07): If not for an assortment of injuries, this 6-8, 265-pounder might have approached Witten's level of excellence. Limited by health problems to 10 career starts, Cottam caught just 21 balls but averaged a whopping 16.2 yards per catch. He bounced back from a fractured wrist to average 25 yards per reception (five for 125 yards) as a senior last fall.
4. David Horn (1993-95): This lanky 6-4, 235-pounder showed a knack for making the clutch catch, a talent which endeared him to Vol quarterbacks Heath Shuler and Peyton Manning. Horn caught 9 balls for 72 yards as a freshman, 8 for 44 as a sophomore, 11 for 134 as a junior and 6 for 39 in 1995 before a Game 4 injury cut short his senior season. His career totals show 34 receptions for 289 yards.
5. John Finlayson (1999, 2000, 2001): At 6-4 and 275 pounds, he wasn't nimble enough to get open on a regular basis or make plays after the catch. Finlayson had surprisingly soft hands, however, that enabled him to catch 16 balls for 182 yards (11.4 per catch) in his three years as a starter.
6. Dustin Moore (1996): After a stint at defensive end, Moore found his niche after moving to tight end midway through his freshman year of 1995. He wound up catching 9 passes for 100 yards in backup duty that fall, then added 18 grabs for 201 yards as a sophomore starter in '96. The enormously gifted 6-3, 250-pounder was on the verge of stardom when he was dismissed from the program prior to his junior season. An incredible waste of talent.
7. Victor McClure (2003-04): As you might guess, this 6-4, 310-pounder played tight end strictly for his blocking skills. A converted guard, he caught just one career pass – an 11-yard gainer against a stunned group of Miami Hurricanes in 2003.
8. Eric Diogu (1997-98): His two-year starting career peaked with a national title in '98 but he was all block and no catch. The 6-3, 245-pound Texan did not record a reception during his entire Big Orange career.
9. Scott Pfeiffer (1995): Pressed into starting duty after Horn was injured four games into the '95 season, Pfeiffer recorded 13 catches for 82 yards over the season's final eight games.