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October 29, 2012

Sammy: Ebron's Two-Way Day

We all knew Eric Ebron was a gifted athlete before Saturday.

After all, the North Carolina sophomore has used his uncanny combination of size (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) and speed (4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash) to become a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses this season.

Ebron entered Saturday's game against rival N.C. State as UNC's second-leading receiver with 31 catches for 467 yards and three touchdowns in eight games.

But against the Wolfpack, Ebron added a new level of versatility to his repertoire by seeing action at defensive end for the Tar Heels.

The Greensboro native didn't register a tackle on the handful of plays he was in on against N.C. State. But in the opening period of the 43-35 triumph, Ebron raced in from the right side to hurry Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon to pass early on a third-down play.

The result was a 2-yard completion that came up short of a first down.

"I almost had him,'' Ebron said after the game. "I rushed Mike Glennon a few times, hurried him on a few plays. I did pretty good if you ask me.''

His UNC teammates agreed.

"He (Ebron) did a great job,'' senior defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said. "I told him before the game, 'If all else fails, just run.' He's a guy with great speed, so I told him not to try anything fancy and just use his speed."

"He is a great talent and is giong to do a lot of great things for us in the future.''

"He is a freakish athlete,'' added senior linebacker Kevin Reddick of Ebron. "We just use him in as many ways as we can. I think he liked it (playing defensive end). You may see him some more, I don't know.''

The Tar Heels were in need of help at defensive end after junior Tim Jackson suffered a leg injury in the previous week's loss to Duke.

Losing Jackson left UNC with junior Kareem Martin, plus true freshmen Jessie Rogers and Justin Thomason as the only scholarship players at the end position.

Ebron wasn't exactly a stranger to the defensive end position. He played both ways as a senior at Greensboro's Ben L. Smith High School, logging 68 tackles and 13.5 sacks in his final prep season.

So he seemed like a natural choice when the UNC coaches began considering candidates to help out on defense after Jackson's injury.

"I think they (coaches) knew what kind of end he could be,'' Reddick said. "Some of them probably recruited him in high school and saw him play defensive end. So they decided to give it a shot this week in practice.''

Ebron said the coaching staff approached him about possibility of seeing some action at end Tuesday, but he didn't actually take any snaps with the defense until Friday's walk-through practice.

"I did it for about 30 minutes,'' Ebron said. "I think they waited until Friday because no one was around, so they (N.C. State) couldn't prepare for it. The last time I had played there was in high school, but it felt pretty good to do it again.''

The toughest part of playing both positions was mental, according to Ebron.

"Offense is more about savvy, while defense is about being aggressive,'' Ebron said. "You just have to be mentally strong. You have to know both plays and try to execute.''

Ebron said it's possible he could continue to play both ways this season, and that's OK with him.

"I'll do whatever I can to help our team win,'' he said. "And besides, that was fun out there today. We were made for this. No matter how many points we were down, we kept fighting back."







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