Texas Longhorns wide receiver Malcolm Epps (85) during Texas Longhorns football spring practice at the Frank Denius practice fields in Austin Wednesday, April 3, 2019 [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Football

Malcolm Epps has emerged this spring, but can Texas find him playing time during the fall?

Posted April 3rd, 2019

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This off-season has been a good one for Longhorns named Malcolm.

Malcolm Roach, for example, has set up his senior season to be one where he contributes as both a defensive lineman and vocal leader. Former UT running back Malcolm Brown had a two-year offer sheet matched by the Los Angeles Rams. Fresh off a Super Bowl win with the New England Patriots, ex-Texas defensive lineman Malcom Brown got a new job in New Orleans.

Then there’s Malcolm Epps.

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Epps, a freshman receiver, has emerged as the darling of UT’s spring football practices. With Collin Johnson working his way back from knee surgery, Epps has taken advantage of his first-team reps. His performance has been praised by both head coach Tom Herman and teammates.

“He has stickums for hands. He has not dropped a pass yet,”  Texas linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch said earlier this week.

Recruited to Texas as a four-star tight end, Epps transitioned into a receiver during what was a redshirt season in 2018. Epps appeared in only two games before a broken collarbone ended his year. His lone catch was an impressive 18-yard haul against Texas Tech.

Texas receivers Malcolm Epps (right) and Collin Johnson work on drills together at the Denius Fields on April 3, 2019 [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
When asked on Wednesday why Epps has made a leap this spring, Herman insisted that not much has changed about the Houston native’s performances in practices. Herman did note that Epps arrived at Texas as a “gangly basketball player” and has since gotten stronger. On Tuesday, assistant coach Drew Mehringer reported that the 6-6 Epps was weighing 242 pounds.

When it comes to Epps, though, the biggest question may be if Texas can find a way to get him on the field.

UT abandoned its practice of regularly rotating receivers last season, and Johnson would appear to be the clear favorite at the “X” position. Last year, Texas faced a similar problem with Lil’Jordan Humphrey. UT’s solution was to move the versatile Humphrey into the slot, and he ended the year as the team’s leading receiver. Herman, though, said the slot isn’t a match for Epps’ skill set.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Herman said. “But right now, he’s having a heckuva spring at X.”

Herman noted that Texas has five players who could contend for playing time at its two outside receiver positions. In addition to Johnson, Devin Duvernay is an incumbent starter at the “Z” position. Brennan Eagles could push for playing time, and UT is also welcoming five-star freshman Bru McCoy into the fold. According to Herman, McCoy is the member of that quintet who is best-equipped to work in the slot.

Good luck: During his press conference, Herman took time to express his support for the Texas men’s basketball team. After knocking off rival TCU on Tuesday, the Longhorns will meet Lipscomb in the National Invitation Tournament’s championship game on Thursday night. That contest will be played in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

“I had a chance to watch that game last night,” Herman said. “Played with a lot of energy, enthusiasm, played great defense. That was fun to watch.”

Injury update: Texas has shut down the prospects of early enrollee DeGabriel Floyd going through spring practices. A four-star linebacker, Floyd has been dealing with a neck injury that he sustained in high school. Herman said Floyd will be re-evaluated after the spring.

Additionally, offensive lineman Christian Jones (ankle) and Johnson participated in individual drills on Wednesday. Johnson may go through team activities during UT’s final week of spring practices. The spring game is scheduled for April 13.

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