Q&A: Joe Pannunzio on Dedrick Epps

The more ways a player can contribute, the longer he'll stick around. It's an old but true NFL cliché, and it's the reason Miami tight ends coach Joe Pannunzio foresees a bright future for Dedrick Epps. As he notes in this interview, Epps' two-way skills give him a chance to be "really good" for San Diego.

  • For an exclusive interview with seventh-rounder Dedrick Epps, click here.
  • For a scouting report on Epps via the publisher of Canes Time, click here.

The Chargers selected Dedrick Epps with their final selection in the '10 NFL Draft. The rookie out of Miami gives San Diego insurance at tight end, as Antonio Gates and Randy McMichael have battled injuries recently. Epps (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) finished his three-year college career with 49 catches for 634 yards and six scores.

For more on Epps, we check in with Joe Pannunzio, the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator for the Hurricanes.

LaShana Marshburn: Tell us about your experience coaching Dedrick.

Joe Pannunzio: Dedrick was a pleasure to coach. He was a kid who came to us from Richmond, Va., and was highly recruited. It was fun to watch him grow and mature. We had him for four years and in his last year, when he was coming off knee surgery, we didn't know how affected he was going to be. He ended up having a good senior year for us. He is just a great kid.

LM: That knee surgery you mentioned caused Dedrick to miss the Emerald Bowl at the end of his junior season. What was that like for him?

JP: It was kind of a strange deal. We were at practice in just shorts and shoulder pads. He made a play and hit his knee while he was going out of bounds. I didn't know if he'd be good enough as a senior because he's never been red-shirted, but he'll be even better this season. If you look at kids' records after they've had knee surgery, it's really 18 months before they fully recover. I would say that's probably going to be true for Dedrick.

LM: Did you notice the Chargers showing interest in him prior to the NFL Draft?

JP: Well, we used to have an offensive coordinator here (Rod Chudzinski) who is now coaching tight ends in San Diego. Also, [linebackers coach] John Pagano is a good friend of mine. The Chargers have always been my favorites [for Dedrick] because of those two guys.

LM: How did the University of Miami prepare Dedrick for life in the NFL?

JP: All you have to do is look around the NFL: Every team has Miami football players. If you look at the Pro Bowl, we had six players there and the next college with the most probably had two. Miami prepares kids better than any place in the country for the National Football League.

LM: Despite the excellent preparation, where must Dedrick still get better?

JP: I'm sure it's like anything else, just being relaxed. The athleticism steps up and is probably going to be the same for him in pro football. It's like most rookies coming in, there's a growing process. I'm sure he is going to have a little bit of that, but he's a kid that's not going to back down from competition. He'll adapt pretty well.

LM: What makes you so confident that Dedrick will succeed in San Diego?

JP: I think the one thing about tight ends is some guys can go down the field and make plays and some guys stay in as blockers and move people. Dedrick can get down the field and he's a decent blocker. He's not a dominant blocker, but he's kind of a cross between the two types of tight ends, so he has a chance to be really good.

LM: And what about his presence off the field?

JP: He's a real quiet, good kid. He is kind of like a son to me.

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