Ebron emerges as a weapon for UNC

North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron is well aware of the perception that accompanies his position.

And, quite frankly, he thinks it’s outdated.

“A lot of people think tight ends are usually the man on the ground or the sixth man on the line of scrimmage,” Ebron said.

“But we’re a lot more versatile than people think, and we’re a lot stronger and a lot faster than people mistake us for — at least, I am.”

As confident as that sounds, for the most part, the sophomore has backed it up with his play.

As the Tar Heels (2-2, 0-1 ACC) head into Saturday’s home matchup with Idaho (0-4), Ebron ranks second on the team in receptions and receiving yards with 14 and 210, respectively.

Those numbers already surpass the totals Ebron put together all of last season, and they’re likely to go up even more against an Idaho team that ranks 106th in the nation in passing defense.

With UNC’s wide receiving core a bit thin to start the season, Ebron has emerged as a frequent target for quarterback Bryn Renner and the Tar Heel offense.

“They really know how to utilize their weapons like me, Erik Highsmith and (Sean) Tapley,” Ebron said. “They really know how to scheme up and put the ball where it needs to be. And we just execute it. So that’s what really got me where I am now, producing a lot more stats than I did last year.”

A lot of that has to do with sheer talent as well.

At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Ebron is near the lower end of the tight-end size spectrum.

But, perhaps because of that size, he’s near the high end in terms of athleticism.

“He’s the most versatile tight end I’ve ever seen,” Renner said. “He could probably start at X receiver if we wanted him to. He’s got that size and that athletic ability. He can make all the plays … And he can catch the ball any time that he wants.”

Ebron said he actually used to play at the X wide receiver slot in high school before moving to tight end his junior year.

And while he said he would play at receiver again if the coaching staff asked him to, there’s little chance UNC would move him from a position that appears to fit him perfectly.

“He is definitely what you look for if you’re going to draw a blueprint of what we want a tight end to be,” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Blake Anderson said.

“That’s what you want tight ends to look like, and fortunately he’s a sophomore, and we’ve got him for a while.”

But, as an underclassman, Ebron is still prone to making rookie mistakes.

In Ebron’s case, that has come in the form of false starts. He’s racked up four false start penalties in the last two games, but Renner just chalked that up to Ebron’s excitable personality.

The tight end was undeniably enthusiastic as he talked about his role on the team and his position after Tuesday’s practice.

Maybe he does have the athletic ability to play at wide receiver, but there’s a little doubt that he has embraced his role as a tight end — stereotypes and all.

“You know, I like people who underestimate us,” Ebron said.

“Because when we come out and we shock them, then they have no answer.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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